Vaccine, immunization, and vaccination are often used interchangeably but really mean different things. A vaccine is a substance that produces immunity to a disease when injected, swallowed or inhaled. Immunization is the process by which people become immune to a disease, either through catching the disease or by receiving a vaccine. Vaccination is specifically the injection of an organism like a virus that has been weakened or killed; it is used to produce immunity to a disease.
Before vaccines were developed, people became immune to a disease by catching and then recovering from the disease. The body produced antibodies against viruses, bacteria, and fungi which protected people; in some cases, the immunity lasted throughout the lifespan. “Herd” or “community” immunity occurs when a large number of people become ill and recover, which decreases the risk of spreading the disease. Today, vaccinations are used to provide herd immunity to decrease the risk of an outbreak.
Age affects vaccination recommendations, and the vaccinations themselves may be single or multiple doses. Hepatitis B is usually given soon after birth. Flu vaccine is given as an annual injection to all ages. By the age of two, children have typically received Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, or whooping cough), influenza, pneumococcal (pneumonia), polio, measles, mumps and rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis A vaccinations. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is usually given at age 11 to 12.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults who have never been vaccinated be given the same vaccinations as children. In addition, the CDC recommends adults have an annual flu vaccination and a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster (TDAP) every 10 years. Other recommendations include herpes zoster after age 55-60 to prevent complications of shingles, a skin disease. Once people reach age 65, the CDC recommends they receive a second and different kind of vaccination for pneumonia.
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