Vaccine or Vaccination?

Long, long ago, in my e-mail newsletter, I explained the difference between a vaccine and a vaccination, and now that it’s the season to get flu shots and people are talking about Ebola vaccines, I thought it would be a good time to include it on the website.

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read

vaccine or vaccination

A vaccine is the fluid they inject into you or the aerosol you inhale; it's the preparation of an inactivated microbe or virus that stimulates an immune response that helps protect you from disease. For example, a nurse could say, "The vaccine arrived yesterday." Picture a tube of liquid.

A vaccination is the shot you get. It’s the introduction of the vaccine into your body. You get a vaccination when someone administers the vaccine to you.

A nurse could say, “We can start giving vaccinations now,” or “We run a vaccination clinic.”

We typically think of a vaccination as something that protects you from getting sick if you encounter a bacteria or virus in the future—that’s how the flu vaccine works: it won’t do any good if you get it after you already have the flu—but occasionally, scientists also use the words vaccine or therapeutic vaccine to describe a treatment that triggers an immune response after a person has been infected. Right now, researchers are working on Ebola vaccines that might do both—help people resist infection and respond better after they have been infected.

In summary, the vaccine is the liquid or preparation itself, and a vaccination is the act of administering the vaccine.


Questions and Answers on Experimental Treatments and Vaccines for Ebola (CDC)

Canada’s Ebola Vaccine: How Does It Work?

New Ebola Vaccine Study Has Begun in Maryland

Treating Diseases With Vaccines (WebMD)

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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