Difference between immunization and vaccination.

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The terms immunization , vaccination , and vaccination are often used interchangeably, but technically the terms have different meanings. While the differences may seem semantic, the correct use of terms can help avoid misunderstandings between you and your healthcare provider.

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Vaccination against immunization against vaccination

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination and immunization are linked, although one describes an action and the other describes a process.

As defined by WHO:

  • Vaccination uses vaccines to stimulate the body's own immune system to protect a person from further infection or illness.
  • Immunization is the process by which a person becomes immune or resistant to an infectious disease, usually through the administration of a vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer similar definitions:

  • Vaccination is the introduction of a vaccine into the body to develop immunity against a specific disease.
  • Immunization is the process by which a person protects himself from disease through vaccination.

A person can become immune to disease when the body is exposed to an organism that causes the disease ( pathogen ) and produces antibodies to fight it. But in modern vocabulary, immunization almost always implies immunity from vaccination rather than natural infection.

Meanwhile, the term " vaccination " is often used synonymously with vaccination or immunization.

From a historical point of view, it describes the introduction of a substance into the body for its protection. The term was first coined in the 18th century to describe variolation (the introduction of a small amount of pus from a smallpox patient into the body of a person who does not have smallpox).

As with immunization, the term " vaccination " almost always includes the use of vaccines.

What vaccines do

Vaccines and immunizations are designed to protect people from life-threatening diseases. Diseases that once killed millions, like polio and flu , can now be prevented with vaccines.

When you receive a vaccine, your immune system recognizes the substance as harmful and creates specially designed antibodies to fight this disease and only this disease.

This is called an acquired (or adaptive) immune response . The adaptive response not only attacks and neutralizes a specific pathogen, but also leaves memory cells behind to renew the attack if the pathogen returns. This reduces the risk of symptomatic disease in the event of reinfection.

When enough people in a community are vaccinated, protection can be provided to everyone, even those who have not been vaccinated. It does this by reducing the number of people who can spread the infection in this community, a process called herd immunity .

In this way, public health officials were able to eliminate (or almost completely eliminate) diseases such as polio, mumps , and measles , which once claimed millions of lives. When diseases cannot spread, they eventually die out.

Timing of vaccination and duration of immunization

Vaccination is necessary to immunize against diseases that can be harmful. This begins at birth and continues into later life, and the timing depends on the overall risk of disease throughout life.

Some parents are overwhelmed by the number of vaccinations their child has received since birth. But following the recommended schedule is important because vaccines are designed for the time necessary to protect against specific diseases when the child is most vulnerable to them.

The immunization schedule published by the CDC has proven to be safe and effective in protecting children from common diseases that still exist in many communities. Not getting vaccinated puts your child at serious risk.

There are also recommended vaccines for adults , such as the Shingrix vaccine, which is used to prevent shingles.

Remember that ultimately immunization comes from immunization. In other words, while you may have been vaccinated against a certain disease as a child, it is your immunization rate that determines how protected you are today.

The duration of immunity can vary depending on the vaccine, with some going away relatively quickly, while others provide long-term protection.

In cases where immunity has begun to weaken, a revaccination or revaccination may be required. Tetanus is one of those examples.

Get the word of drug information

Vaccines, immunizations, and vaccinations are essentially part of the same process: protecting you from diseases that could otherwise harm you. Whether given by injection, nasal spray, or orally, vaccines provide protection that almost always outweighs potential risks.

If you are not sure if you need the vaccine (or if the vaccine is right for you), talk to your doctor or qualified healthcare professional.

Frequently asked questions

  • There are many different types of vaccines that include live attenuated vaccines; inactivated vaccines; subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines; toxoid vaccines; mRNA vaccines; and viral vector vaccines. Depending on the type, the vaccine may use a weakened version of the germ that causes the disease, a dead version of the germ, parts of a microbe, a toxin that damages the microbe, or genetic material to develop an immune response.

  • Herd immunity helps protect entire communities from disease outbreaks because enough people are vaccinated and they are less likely to contract and spread the disease.

  • The vaccines receive FDA approval after rigorous research, development, testing, and approval. Once research determines that a vaccine is needed and can be tested, it begins in the laboratory with animal testing before human testing can begin. Before a vaccine can go through the approval process, there must be at least three stages of human testing to determine its efficacy and safety. Even after approval, the FDA continues to closely monitor vaccines.

Vaccine Discussion Guide for Doctors

Get our printable guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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