Immunization means to make someone immune to something. Vaccination, by contrast, according to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, just means to inject “a suspension of attenuated or killed microorganisms…administered for prevention…or treatment of infectious disease.”
Most people do not realize that when you receive a shot or a vaccine it does not mean you are immunized. Many people believe that once you are vaccinated you are completely protected. That belief is wrong.
The use of the word “immunization” instead of “vaccination” is everywhere. Most importantly, news outlets tell the public that immunization is the same as vaccination. However, there is a large difference between the two.
Vaccines contain a dead or live weakened germ that can cause a particular disease, like tetanus, or parts of a germ. When we are given a vaccine shot, our body immediately produces antibodies against the germ.
It is at this point that most believe the body’s defense mechanism kicks in and immunity will occur in the event that the said antigen gains entry again into the body but, this is not the case with all vaccines.
Vaccination Doesn’t Guarantee Immunity
Vaccination does not guarantee immunity. Natural immunity happens only after one recovers from the actual disease. During the disease, the microorganism usually has to pass through many of the body’s natural immune defense systems—in the nose, throat, lungs, digestive tract and lymph tissue—before it reaches the bloodstream.
As it does, the microorganism triggers many biological events that are essential in building true natural immunity. When a child gets a new disease, he may feel sick for several days, but, in the vast majority of cases, he will recover.
According to the Center for Disease and Prevention Control, CDC, not all that receive a vaccination will have immunity.
Defending what they believe is a misconception that the majority of people who get disease have been vaccinated, they state, “In fact it is true that in an outbreak those who have been vaccinated often outnumber those who have not – even with vaccines such as measles, which we know to be about 98% effective when used as recommended.”
“This is explained by two factors. No vaccine is 100% effective. Most routine childhood vaccines are effective for 85% to 95% of recipients.”
Everyone’s Immune System Reacts Differently
For reasons related to the individual, some will not develop immunity.
The second fact is that in a country such as the United States the people who have been vaccinated vastly outnumber those who have not. Here’s a hypothetical example of how these two factors work together.
The National Network of Immunization Information provides, “Although vaccines have very high effectiveness rates, they are not completely effective for 100% of the people who receive them. For example, a full series of measles vaccine will protect 99 of 100 children from measles and polio vaccine will protect 99 of 100 children from polio. This means when there is a disease outbreak, the very small number of people for whom the vaccine did not work may still be able to catch the disease. Because almost all of our children are immunized and only few are not, it can be the case that during an epidemic the majority of cases occur among children who were immunized. However, the fact remains that those who have not received the vaccine are much more likely to catch the disease.”
Types of Vaccines
There are several different approaches that are used when vaccines are made. Each approach has its own way that it keeps the virus from sickening the recipient of the vaccine. When a company is developing a vaccine, they will have to choose which one of these methods works best to make the vaccine the most effective.
Here are the types of vaccines that are used:
Weakening Vaccines (Live Attenuated)
Some viruses reproduce thousands of times within the body. The bacteria invades the body and then it multiplies exponentially. This type of vaccine involves the introduction of the live virus into the body. While you may think that injecting a virus into the body will have harmful effects, the opposite holds true with these types of vaccines. The theory behind these vaccines is that they are intended to “educate” the body to defend itself from the virus. Once that occurs, the viruses will have difficulty reproducing within the body. Here, much of the work is done before the virus is injected into the body. The virus is grown outside of its normal environment. When that happens, it becomes a weakened form of itself. By the time that it is introduced to the body, it is unable to reproduce itself.
The advantages of live attenuated vaccines include:
- They are relatively easy to create for the viruses that they protect against
- They do not need to be taken more than once or twice
- They help strengthen the immune system since they are very close to the actual virus
However, there are some disadvantages to this type of virus. They include:
- Since they are weakened viruses, they can always re-strengthen and cause the sickness
- They must be well-stored and refrigerated which makes them difficult to ship to certain places
- Attenuated vaccines do not work well with bacterial viruses
Attenuated vaccines are used to immunize against the following diseases:
- Measles, mumps, and rubella
- Yellow Fever
Instead of introducing a weakened form of the virus into the body, this type of vaccine aims to completely stop the virus from reproducing. Usually, this type of vaccine will rely on a chemical or a pathogen to achieve that result. The body will continue to recognize the virus so it will keep producing the cells that will protect against the virus. The pathogen will still continue to exist, but it will not be able to replicate within the body.
The advantages of inactivation vaccines include:
- No form of the disease will be produced by the body whatsoever. This includes even a milder form.
- This is not a type of vaccine that cannot be given to those with weakened immune systems
However, unlike live attenuated vaccines, one or two injections will generally not be enough to provide lifetime protection against these diseases. In addition to the initial vaccination, several long-term booster shots will be necessary to continue to provide immunity against the diseases.
Types of diseases that are protected against by this type of vaccine include:
- Hepatitis A
Subunit and Conjugate Vaccines
Subunit vaccines use only a part of the virus in order to create the immunization. They take out only the essential part of the antigen in order to produce the vaccine and leave everything else. This will usually mean that a protein is used that resides on the surface of the virus. This type of vaccine is suitable for an instance where the body needs to protect against one specific part of the virus in order to protect against the entire disease. One of the advantages to this type of vaccine is that the body can give a targeted and focused response to the part of the germ that has been selected.
Conjugate vaccines use two different components instead of one. They use parts of the coats of bacteria. These parts are then linked to a protein. The combination of the coats of bacteria and the protein becomes the vaccine. It is the combination of the piece of bacteria and the carrier protein that gives the vaccine its effectiveness.
Some of the positive attributes of these types of vaccines include:
- Those with weakened immune system and other health problems can receive the vaccine without fear of getting the disease
- The immune response is strong and targeted
Those who receive this type of vaccine will likely require booster shots in order to receive continuous protection from the disease. In other words, recipients will not be able to have just one vaccination.
Some of the diseases that this type of vaccine protects against include:
- Hepatitis B
- Meningococcal disease
- Whooping cough
- Pneumococcal disease
Toxoid vaccines use the harmful thing that is produced by the disease called the toxin, inactivating it with a chemical and reintroducing it into the body. The inactivated toxin becomes the vaccine. As opposed to vaccinating against the entire germ, these vaccinate against the part of the germ that causes the disease. These types of vaccines are considered to be bacterial in nature because they contain the actual bacteria. In other words, when the inactivated toxins are introduced, they stimulate the production of antibodies to the toxin. However, they will not cause the disease itself to take root.
These vaccines can be given to people who have immune systems that are weakened or compromised. However, the amount of antibodies that is produced by the body declines over time with these types of vaccines. Thus, periodic booster shots are necessary to maintain the proper level of protection.
Some of the diseases treated by this type of vaccine include:
- Tetanus Diphtheria
How Are Vaccines Administered?
There are several different ways that vaccines are administered. Most vaccines are administered through the form of an injection. However, advances in the medical field have diversified the means of delivery of new types of vaccines. Here are some means of administering vaccines through means other than an injection.
- Nasal Spray – flu injections are given to patients through their nose as a mist.
- Inhalant – There is a type of measles vaccine that is inhalable through the mouth.
- Orally – Certain vaccines can given in tablet form.
- Microneedle – Certain flu vaccines can shoot the substance into the body without the use of needles.
What Are the Types of Immunization?
There are two different types of immunization. Each one has different features to it. The two types are active and passive immunizations. Below is some information on each of the two kinds of immunity.
The term “active immunization” characterizes how the body responds to receiving a vaccine. The vaccine stimulates the production of antibodies. Then, the antibodies will actively fight off the virus or the bacteria. The vaccine recipient will usually need a strong immune system in order to achieve the desired result. Active immunization cannot occur until the recipient has been exposed to the particular pathogen that is contained in the vaccine. The immunity is triggered by the exposure to the pathogen. Vaccines are considered to be a form of active immunization.
Passive immunity comes from the transfer of antibodies of an immune person to the body of a person who is not immune. This can happen naturally, such as when a mother passes immunity to a disease to the child through the fetus. It can also occur through a transfer in a substance such as immune globulin, which is given when protection from a certain disease is necessary. This protection occurs immediately, as opposed to active immunization, which takes time for the body to develop the necessary antibodies.
What Are the Differences Between Active and Passive Immunity?
- Active immunity takes some time to develop, usually as a response to receiving the vaccine. Passive immunity comes immediately upon transfer.
- Passive immunity is not permanent and may last for a certain limited period of time. Active immunity is longer-lasting and is either permanent or lasts a long time until a subsequent booster shot is needed.
- In passive immunity, the antibodies comes from outside the body. In active immunity, the antibodies come from within the body in response to the introduction of another substance.
- Passive immunity is usually artificially induced.
Immunization and Vaccine Side Effects
There are three different possible reactions, or lack thereof, that people can experience when they have received immunizations and vaccinations. They are as follows:
- No Side Effects – The majority of people who receive immunizations and vaccinations do not experience any side effects. Sometimes, there is soreness or redness at the site of injection, but nothing further. If there are minor side effects, it is often a sign that the vaccination is working insofar as the body is beginning to build up the resistance necessary to immunize against the disease.
- Common Side Effects – While these side effects may be painful or temporarily debilitating, they are not much about which to be overly concerned. Among other things, these side effects consist of pain and itching at the injection site, dizziness, fever, nausea and a mild rash. Most often, these side effects pass after a period of time.
- Serious Side Effects – In some instances, patients can have severe side effects based on how their bodies react to the vaccination. This could mean seizures, brain damage and in a worst-case scenario, death.
The most important thing is to know what to do when you or someone in your family begins to experience side effects from a vaccination. Here are several important considerations that span both legal and medical issues.
- See a Medical Provider Immediately – If you believe that the side effects are anything more than common, it is essential to be seen by a healthcare provider immediately. From the obvious standpoint, adverse reactions to vaccination can endanger health both in the short and long terms. From a legal perspective, it is essential to document the complications that have been caused by an immunization.
- Report the Side Effect – There is a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System that allows people to report any complications. Tracking any side effects is essential in order to both know about them and prevent widespread complications if possible.
- Contact an Attorney – There is a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that exists for those who have suffered injury from receiving vaccines. This is a special court that has been set up which has its own rules and procedures. A claim must be filed in order to be eligible for compensation. An attorney who specializes in vaccine injuries will know the most effective way to file a claim for compensation.
Common Side Effects
- Pain, redness, tenderness or swelling at injection site
- Itching at injection site
- Dizziness or fainting (most common in adolescents)
- Mild rash
Serious Side Effects
- Severe Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis)
- Brain Damage
- Blood Disorders
- Bowel Obstruction
- Nerve Damage
Immunization is the desired end result after you have received a vaccination. In other words, the vaccine will either help you develop antibodies or will inactivate the disease in your body. Immunization is what happens when your immune system is built up to the point where you will not get sick from the disease.
A contraindication is some kind of condition that can lead to adverse side effects which would make it dangerous or not feasible to administer a vaccination to a patient. One example of this would be a known allergy to some ingredient of the vaccine or to the entire vaccine. This is a permanent condition that would mean that the patient may not be able to receive the vaccine. Alternatively, there could be a temporary condition that would make the vaccination impracticable. For example, the patient could have an acute febrile illness. This could be a fever with an unknown cause, and, if a vaccination were administered, it would lead to a serious side effect. Note that this is a not a permanent impediment to receiving the vaccination.
It is important to know what is and is not a permanent contraindication. While some caution should be used, physicians and their patients should not be excessively cautious because it will result in patients not getting vaccines that they need to receive.
Each of the four types uses a different method to help the body achieve immunity. The four types of vaccines are:
- Live-attenuated vaccines
- Inactivated vaccines
- Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines
- Toxoid vaccines
Vaccine Injury Reporting
When one has sustained an injury as a result of being administered a vaccine, there is a different mechanism whereby one would receive compensation. Vaccines have both their own means of the reporting the injury as well as for filing a claim. This is not the same process that one would follow when they are injured by a medical device or medication.
Why Are Vaccines Different Than Other Medical Claims?
Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 as a means of encouraging vaccine makers to produce their products while, at the same time, protecting patients from harm. The intent behind the statute was to keep manufacturers from having to face litigation from the products that they sold. On the other side, Congress also wanted to encourage people to be vaccinated by ensuring that they could be compensated for any injuries that they suffered.
How Are Vaccine Injuries Reported?
While the FDA has its own adverse event reporting database, the Centers for Disease Control, in tandem with the FDA, has its own Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System for vaccine injuries. VAERS exists to serve as a repository for information about vaccine related injuries that can be reported to the database by anyone. There are several steps that one should take in order to report a vaccine injury to VAERS.
- Contact healthcare provider – The first person to inform of an injury is the physician
- Report the injury – Patients can submit an online report to VAERS
- Update VAERS – If there are medical records pertaining to treatment, they should be uploaded into VAERS.
VAERS is helpful to track various metrics that relate to vaccines. Among the uses of VAERS are:
- It helps to detect any trends in injuries
- Allows people to track the safety of new vaccines
- Gives transparency to adverse events for new vaccinations
- Can identify any patient risk factors for certain vaccine injuries
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The VICP is the fund that allows those who have suffered vaccine-related injuries to receive compensation for their injuries. The main difference between vaccines and drugs is that, with regard to the VICP, the manufacturers are not paying out the settlement. That is because the VICP is intended to shield them from liability in order to encourage them to enter and stay in what is a critical field. The VICP was initially established because there was a scare related to a certain vaccine in the early 1980s that resulted in a threat to the vaccine supply when vaccine makers lost several large lawsuits.
The VICP is funded by a fee that is assessed by the federal government on the sale of every single childhood vaccination. The fees are then placed in the fund which is used to pay out claims as they are filed. This means that patients end up funding the settlements through the vaccines that are purchased.
There is a special mechanism for the VICP that must be followed in order to receive compensation. The process is started by filing a petition with the United States Court of Federal Claims (COFC), which has exclusive jurisdiction over vaccination cases. COFC has Special Masters whose job it is to decide these claims. Before the Special Master issues a decision, the Department of Health and Human Services will make their own recommendation. Then, the Department of Justice develops a report that includes a medical recommendation and legal analysis. After that, the Special Master may hold a hearing and decide the issue of compensation. The petitioner has the right to appeal the Special Master’s decision.
It is best to hire an attorney to help with drafting the petition since the case will likely be decided initially on the basis of the petition and any hearing that the Special Master may hold. Given the scientific complexity of vaccines and their injuries, an attorney may best be able to present a case.