Vaccine in a bottle with syringe

Image by NIAID, cropped (CC BY 2.0)

What is a vaccine?

Vaccines are antigenic substances that are introduced into the body (by injection, tablet or mixture) to induce immunity to a particular disease by causing the production of antibodies against the infecting agent.  Vaccines are often in the form of killed bacteria or viruses and are given by injection, or living organisms that have been altered so that they cannot cause disease (eg. Sabin polio) and are given by mouth.

Vaccines commonly available include those that protect against the following diseases:-

Anthrax Adult 4 in a year One year Only given to people at high risk
Chickenpox 9 months to 12 years Nil Not known Varicella vaccine introduced in 2000
Cholera 2 years + 6 months 6 months Some travellers only. Oral vaccine
Diphtheria 2 months + 3 by 18 months 10 years Combined with tetanus and pertussis
Genital warts (HPV) Puberty 2 & 6 months 20 years+ Protects against cervical cancer
Haemophilus 2 months + 2 by 18 months 5 years HiB meningitis and infantile throat infection.
Hepatitis A 16 years + 6-12 months 20 years+ May be combined with hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B Birth+ 2 by 4 months 5 years+ May be combined with hepatitis A.
Influenza 1 year+ Annually One year Form changes every year. Safe in pregnancy.
Japanese enceph. 1 year 1 & 2 weeks 5 years For residents in remote parts of E & S Asia
Measles 1 year 5 years Long term Combined with rubella & mumps
Meningococcus 2 years+ 3 years Long term Form of meningitis. Now routine
Mumps 1 year 5 years Long term Combined with measles & rubella
Pertussis 2 months+ 3 by 18 months 10 years Whooping cough. Combined with tetanus
Plague As required As required Short term Given in epidemics only.
Pneumococcal 60 years+ 3-5 years Long term Pneumonia in adults. Lower age if at high risk.
2months + 2 by 12 months Long term Also causes meningitis in infants.
Polio 2 months + 3 by 4 years 10 years Sabin oral vaccine
2 months + 3 by 4 years Long term Injected vaccine.
Q fever Adults No Long term After skin tests in high risk people.
Rabies As required No Short term Given immediately after suspect bite.
Rotavirus 2 months 2 by 6 months Long term Oral. Prevents some gastroenteritis.
Rubella 1 year 5 years Long term May be combined with mumps & measles.
Tetanus 2 months+ 3 by 18mo 5 to 10 years Combined with diphtheria
Tuberculosis birth Nil Long term BCG vaccine. Routine in some countries
Typhoid 2 years + 3 years 3 years Injection
12 years + 6 months 6 months Oral capsules
Yellow fever 6 years + 10 years 10 years African & South American travellers only

Side effects vary between different vaccines but are usually confined to local inflammation at the site of the injection, fevers, irritability, and in rare cases, a very mild dose of the disease (e.g. measles).

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