Vaccination Station

Vaccination Station

First Stop: A Look Back at the History of Vaccines

When you hear the word “vaccine” Edward Jenner may not be the first person that pops into your head, but it can be argued he should be. We have Edward Jenner to thank for the world’s first successful vaccine, which ultimately led to the complete eradication of the smallpox virus centuries later. In 1796 Jenner developed a vaccine using cowpox to confer immunity to smallpox. Although Edward Jenner was not the first to propose inoculation as a means to confer immunity to specific diseases, he is considered the first to do it successfully. In fact, the word vaccine originates from Edward Jenner. The Latin term Variolae Vaccinae used by Jenner in his work translates to cowpox which prompted Jenner to call the new procedure he was working on vaccination. And just like that, one of the greatest inventions in modern medicine was born.

How Vaccines Work

Today, we vaccinate for much more than just smallpox. Vaccines are important to modern society as they help to prevent many serious diseases, as well as create a “herd immunity” for the community you live in which helps protect other individuals who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons. Most vaccines work by using a live, weakened (attenuated) or inactivated form of the infectious agent (virus or bacteria).* The introduction of the weakened/inactive strain through the vaccine elicits an immune reaction similar to one that would occur if you were to be exposed to the naturally occurring strain. The immune reaction from a vaccine is less severe and does not cause illness in the way normal exposure would. However, it creates immunity by activating your T cells and B cells (antibodies) which subsequently create memory T/B cells. The next time you encounter the virus/bacteria you were vaccinated with you will be immune because your memory T and B cells will be able to fight and kill the virus/bacteria.

Recommended Vaccinations

Most vaccines are administered early in life to confer immunity before exposure. The CDC lists 7 childhood diseases that can be prevented by vaccines and are given on a schedule from birth up to 6 years of age.1
The CDC list follows as such1:

  • Diphtheria (the ‘D’ in DTaP vaccine)
  • Tetanus (the ‘T’ in DTaP vaccine; also known as Lockjaw)
  • Pertussis (the ‘P’ in DTaP vaccine, also known as Whooping Cough)
  • Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Polio
  • Pneumococcal Disease

Other vaccinations recommended by the CDC before the age of 18 include2:

  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (VAR)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningococcal
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Meningococcal B (MenB)
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23)

Although most vaccines are given at a young age, many vaccines are recommended into adulthood, including boosters. In addition, many vaccines can be given into adulthood if they were not administered in childhood. Furthermore, if there is an increased risk for disease contraction, or you are traveling to an area where you will be exposed to infectious agents you have not been before, vaccines may also be recommended.

Vaccinations While Pregnant

Vaccines are routinely recommended for pregnant women. Pregnant women may benefit from the Tdap and influenza vaccines.3 The Tdap vaccination prevents pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough. It is recommended pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy for optimal transfer of maternal antibodies to the neonate.3 In addition to the Tdap vaccine, it is recommended pregnant women get a flu shot.3 The flu shot is safe during all trimesters of pregnancy and is the best way to prevent flu-associated pregnancy complications.3

Pregnant women may also find it beneficial to link up with a pediatrician and review a vaccination schedule before giving birth. Being prepared is the best way to eliminate stress as many vaccinations are recommended to be administered in the first couple months of life. For example, the Hepatitis B vaccine can be given (and is recommended) right at birth.2


Recently, the safety of vaccinations has become a popular topic with the concern of a link to autism. Based on numerous studies with large sample sizes, spanning many years and evaluating many different vaccines, no link between vaccines or their ingredients have been found with autism.4-6 The risk of contracting an easily preventable disease poses a much greater threat to human health than choosing not to vaccinate based on misinformation. Data show that the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest it has ever been in history.7

If you are an expecting mother and have been taking a prenatal vitamin throughout pregnancy, then you know there are certain measures that can be taken to optimize the health of your child. Vaccinating is such a measure that limits the risk of your child contracting a harmful disease and spreading it to others. Speak with your health care provider to learn more and develop a vaccination schedule for when your baby arrives.

*There are other types of vaccines including toxoid, subunit and conjugate. Live, attenuated and inactivated are the most common.

REFERENCES: 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Information Statements. Your Child’s First Vaccines. Website. Page last updated July 11, 2018. Page accessed March 21, 2019. 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Immunization Schedules. Table 1. Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger, United States, 2019. Website. Page last reviewed February 5, 2019. Page accessed March 21, 2019. 3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and Vaccination. Why Maternal Vaccines are Important. Website. Page last updated August 15, 2017. Page accessed March 21. 2019. 4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Safety. Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism. Website. Page last reviewed October 27, 2015. Page accessed March 21. 2019. 5. Destefano F., Price C.S., Weintraub E.S. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. Journal of Pediatrics, 163 (2), pp. 561-567 (2013). 6. Hviid A, Hansen JV, Frisch M, Melbye M. Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.7326/M18-2101. 7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Safety. Website. Page last reviewed January 31, 2019. Page accessed March 21. 2019.

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