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The adaptive immune system is slow to recognize new diseases, but can react faster to diseases the immune system has previously recognized. Vaccines are a means of attaining immunity to disease by training the adaptive immune system of the body so the immune system is prepared when a real example of the disease is encountered.
Typically vaccines are made of either a version of the disease which has been rendered impotent, or some component of a pathogen which the immune system recognizes. This is done to eliminate or reduce the danger caused by the disease.
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