A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins.

The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.

Sometime during the 1770s Edward Jenner heard a milkmaid boast that she would never have the often-fatal or disfiguring disease smallpox, because she had already had cowpox, which has a very mild effect in humans.

Further experimentation demonstrated the efficacy of the procedure on an infant. Since vaccination with cowpox was much safer than smallpox inoculation, the latter, though still widely practiced in England, was banned in 1840. Louis Pasteur generalized Jenner's idea by developing what he called a rabies vaccine, and in the nineteenth century vaccines were considered a matter of national prestige, and compulsory vaccination laws were passed.

The twentieth century saw the introduction of several successful vaccines, including those against diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella. Major achievements included the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s and the eradication of smallpox during the 1960s and 1970s. As vaccines became more common, many people began taking them for granted. However, vaccines remain elusive for many significant diseases, including malaria and HIV.

Vaccines do not guarantee absolute protection from a disease. Sometimes, this is because the host's immune system simply doesn’t respond adequately or at all. This may be due to a lowered immunity in general (diabetes, steroid use, HIV infection, age) or because the host's immune system does not have a B cell capable of generating antibodies to that antigen.

Even if the host develops antibodies, the human immune system is not perfect and in any case the immune system might still not be able to defeat the infection immediately. In this case, the infection will be less severe and heal faster.

Source from: Wikipedia

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