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California Standards Biology

Standard 10c Preknowledge

10c) Students know how vaccination protects an individual from infectious diseases.


Several weeks are required before the immune system develops immunity to a new antigen. To overcome this problem, vaccinations safely give the body a look in advance at the foreign structures. Vaccines usually contain either weakened or killed pathogens that are responsible for a specific infectious disease, or they may contain a purified protein or subunit from the pathogen. Although the vaccine does not cause an infectious disease, the antigens in the mixture prompt the body to generate antibodies to oppose the pathogen. When the individual is exposed to the pathogenic agent, perhaps years later, the body still remembers having seen the antigens in the vaccine dose and can respond quickly. Students have been exposed to the practical aspects of immunization through their knowledge of the vaccinations they must receive before they can enter school. They have all experienced getting shots and may have seen their personal vaccination record in which dates and kinds of inoculations are recorded. The review of a typical vaccination record, focusing on the reason for the shots and ways in which they work, may serve as an effective entry to the subject.

Students should review the history of vaccine use. Early literature provides descriptions of vaccine use from pragmatic exposure, but the term vaccine is derived from the cowpox exudate that Edward Jenner used during the 1700s to inoculate villagers against the more pathogenic smallpox. Louis Pasteur, noted for his discovery of the rabies treatment, also developed several vaccines. Poliovirus, the cause of infantile paralysis (poliomyelitis), was finally conquered in the 1950s through vaccines that Jonas Salk and Albert B. Sabin refined.