Vaccination FAQs

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Why do people need vaccines? What is immunization? What is immunity?

Vaccines are medications that boost our ability to fight off certain diseases. Many of the vaccine-preventable diseases are highly contagious and even fatal in non-immunized individuals (Table 1). Prior to the development of vaccines, these diseases disabled or killed millions of people. Many people living in developed countries today do not appreciate the value of immunizations because the successful use of vaccines has almost eradicated many of these diseases. These diseases are still dangerous and can kill people who are not adequately protected from them.

Table 1: Vaccine-preventable diseases
(http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/default.htm)
Anthrax
Cervical cancer
Diphtheria
Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib)
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Influenza (flu)
Japanese encephalitis (JE)
Lyme disease
Measles
Meningococcal disease
Monkeypox
Mumps
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Pneumococcal disease
Poliomyelitis (polio)
Rabies
Rotavirus (severe diarrhea)
Rubella (German measles)
Shingles
Smallpox
Tetanus (lockjaw)
Varicella (chickenpox)
Yellow fever

Immunization is the act of receiving a vaccine. Immunity is the ability of the body to recognize specific infecting organisms as foreign and thereby protect against them.

How can people become immune (protected)?

Immunity (protection) can occur one of two ways:

  • The first way to become immune is by actually getting the natural disease. For many organisms, this confers immunity for life. When the person is exposed again to the organism, the immune system quickly reestablishes protection.
  • The second way to become immune is through the use of a vaccine. The vaccine interacts with the immune system and creates the same protection as if the person had the natural infections. This is done without being exposed to the risks involved with getting the natural infection.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2015

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