Understanding the Different Types of Vaccinations and Why They Are Important

types of vaccinations

Vaccines can significantly lower your risk of catching life-threatening diseases. For this reason, modern medicine has several types of vaccinations available for children and adults.

Vaccines safely expose otherwise healthy individuals to pathogens, or harmful bacteria and viruses, in small doses. This exposure helps the immune system identify and fight the disease by producing antibodies that defend your body against further invasion. Scientists have come up with several types of vaccinations that deliver these pathogens without putting people at risk of succumbing to the illnesses or infections that historically have caused mass fatalities.

Types of Vaccinations

There are several ways to introduce pathogens to the body, such as injection and nasal sprays. Different viruses and bacteria thrive under specific conditions. These types of vaccines were developed to build your resistance to infectious and deadly diseases in the safest way possible:

  • Live Attenuated

    These vaccinations contain live but weakened forms of pathogens that help your immune system develop a lifelong immunity. These vaccines are typically given in one or two doses during childhood. Recommended live vaccines include those that protect against MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), varicella (chicken pox), rotavirus and influenza (nasal spray form).

  • Inactivated

    Inactivated vaccines, like those for polio (IPV, hepatitis A, and rabies, contain dead pathogens that are introduced to your immune system. Since these pathogens are dead, there is no risk of them causing an active infection. These usually require receiving a series of booster shots to attain full immunity. The inactive method is most often used for aggressive or fatal diseases.

  • Subunit

    These vaccines consist of one part of a pathogen, such as a protein, that is isolated and injected into your bloodstream. Subunit vaccines have a lower risk of adverse reactions, because you are not being exposed to the entire pathogen—only to the isolated protein, which stimulates antibody production. Subunit vaccines prevent against hepatitis B, influenza, Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), pneumococcal, pertussis, meningitis and human papillomavirus (HPV).

  • Toxoid

    Toxoids are vaccinations that contain dead toxins taken from harmful bacteria. Toxoid vaccinations were created to help the body fight off infection and illness caused by contamination from things like rust and sewage, which can cause diphtheria—an illness caused by living in close quarters to human or animal waste—and tetanus.

  • Conjugate

    These vaccines help protect you from harmful bacteria that have an outer coating that makes them appear harmless. Scientists attach a harmful bacteria or virus to the coating to stimulate the immune system into attacking the pathogen. The Haemophilus influenza type B vaccine is an example of a conjugate vaccination.

Importance of Vaccinations

The development of vaccines has helped stop the spread of infectious diseases like measles or scarlet fever and rubella that can cause serious illness, permanent disability, and death. Vaccinations can keep one person from falling ill, but for a vaccination to work effectively for all members of a community, a herd immuniy must take place.

A “herd immunity” occurs when there are enough people in a community who have an immunity to a certain disease that it dies out. Herd immunity helps protect people in the community who cannot receive vaccinations, such as infants, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women.

When too many people in a community skip vaccinations, the herd immunity does not offer effective protection for those who are unvaccinated. These unvaccinated people increase the risk of an outbreak occurring.

For example, measles was effectively eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but several outbreaks have occurred in recent years. There were four outbreaks in early 2015 mainly due to lower rates of measles vaccinations. Outbreaks of other diseases—including whooping cough—have occurred in the past five years in communities with low vaccination rates.

It is also important to note that you may need certain vaccinations before traveling abroad. In many cases, this is because you will be exposed to foreign pathogens that are not prevalent in the United States. These vaccinations are to preserve your health, but they are also to preserve the health of your community upon your return. Ask your pharmacist about what vaccinations you may need before traveling abroad.

Smith-Caldwell Drug Store administers flu vaccines, zostavax, pneumovax, and more. Just ask our pharmacists for details.

For more information on which types of vaccinations you need, contact Smith-Caldwell Drug Store at 501-392-5470. We provide flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccines on the premises.

Schedule a flu shot at the best pharmacy in Benton: Smith-Caldwell Drug Store!

* Photo courtesy of Sean Michael Ragan through Flikr