primum nil nocere | above all, do no harm
This glossary of terms related to vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines, is intended for learners of English though it may be of interest to a wider audience.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a product that protects you from a particular dangerous disease. Unlike most medicines that treat a disease after you get sick, a vaccine stops you from getting sick in the first place.
vaccine (noun) /'væksi:n/
vaccinate (verb) /'væksɪneɪt/
vaccination (noun) /væksɪ'neɪʃ(ə)n/
Each of the following terms, listed in alphabetical order, has 1) a basic definition and 2) an example sentence showing how the term may be used in context.
CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)
WHO: World Health Organization
active immunity (noun): immunity resulting from production of antibodies by the immune system in response to an actual disease (natural immunity) or to a vaccine (vaccine-induced immunity). See passive immunity - According to the CDC, "active immunity is long-lasting, and sometimes life-long."
adjuvant (noun): an ingredient that is sometimes added to a vaccine to trigger a stronger immune response and increase the vaccine's effectiveness - The word adjuvant is derived from the Latin meaning to help.
adverse event (noun): any health problem that happens after vaccination. A reported adverse event is followed up by experts to determine whether it was linked to the vaccine or purely coincidental. See side effect - In the USA vaccinated people or their doctors can report any adverse event online through VAERS.
antibody/antibodies (noun): a blood protein produced in response to and attacking a specific antigen - Antibodies in your blood are generated by your body’s immune system soon after you have been infected or vaccinated.
antigen (noun): part of a pathogen that triggers an immune response in the body, including the production of antibodies - Antigens are like warning signs carried by pathogens to alert your immune system to an attack.
approved (noun): an official designation in the USA and other countries meaning that a vaccine has been determined to provide benefits outweighing its known and potential risks and can be marketed for the public. See emergency use authorization - Newspapers often say that a vaccine has been approved when they really mean it has only received emergency use authorization.
breakthrough case (noun): when a fully vaccinated person later gets the disease they were vaccinated for. - In extreme breakthrough cases patients may be hospitalized.
clinical trials (noun): a kind of research that studies new drugs (including vaccines) and their safety and efficacy, first in animals and later in people. Typically there are four phases of clinical trials, each phase studying a larger group than the preceding phase. Official approval for production and marketing is usually granted at the end of Phase 3 - Historically, vaccine development and clinical trials can take 10-15 years.
coincidental (adjective): happening by chance, with no causal link - When four pilots died after vaccination, the airline reassured the public that the deaths were coincidental and there was no link between them.
Covid-19 (noun): official name for the novel coronavirus disease that emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019. COViD-19 = COronaVIrus Disease-2019 - All countries are requested to report any new confirmed case of Covid-19 within 48 hours.
disinformation (noun): misinformation that is deliberately misleading and intended to deceive.
dose (noun): a quantity of a drug or vaccine taken or recommended to be taken at one time - The nurse gave me my first dose of vaccine yesterday and asked me to come back in ten weeks for the second dose.
EUA (abbreviation): emergency use authorisation
emergency use authorization (noun): in various countries, a mechanism to allow the use of new and unapproved vaccines during a public health emergency. The World Health Organization uses the term "emergency use listing (EUL)". See approved - It can vary from country to country whether your vaccine has been officially approved or is being marketed under emergency use authorization.
herd immunity, community immunity (noun): protection from an infectious disease when enough people have become immune (for example 70% of a population, though this percentage varies per disease) - Herd immunity may be achieved through previous infection or through vaccination.
immune system (noun): a complex system in the body that fights disease. The immune system's main job is to identify foreign substances in the body (for example bacteria, viruses) and develop antibodies that reject the foreign substance. - Our immune system is just one of several ways our bodies protect us from harmful microbes.
immunity 1 (noun): the state of being protected from a disease, either by the body's natural immune system or as a result of vaccination - Since someone who has recovered from Covid-19 already has natural immunity, do they need to be vaccinated too?
immunity 2 (noun): protection or exemption from the Law, usually granted by government - According to CNBC, companies have immunity from liability if someone dies from their vaccines.
immunization (noun): the process of receiving a vaccine and becoming immune to a disease as a result - Scientists are not yet confident that mass immunization will work.
immunocompromised (adjective): someone who is immunocompromised has an impaired immune system - Sadly, immunocompromised patients are at higher risk from many diseases.
inject (verb): to introduce a fluid (vaccine or medicine) into the body using a syringe - I asked the nurse to inject the vaccine in my right arm because I'm left-handed.
injection (noun): the act of injecting - She was told to come back for a second injection the following month.
intramuscular (adverb), intramuscularly (adverb): situated in or taking place within a muscle - Like many vaccines, Covid-19 vaccine should be injected intramuscularly.
in vivo testing | animal testing (noun): studying the effects of vaccines on live animals during vaccine clinical trials - Although animals do not necessarily die during animal testing, they are usually destroyed at the end.
jab (noun, British informal): hypodermic or intramuscular injection, especially a vaccination. See shot - Now I have to wait a few more weeks for my second jab.
liability (noun): the state of being legally responsible for something - Pharmaceutical companies' liability for injury resulting from vaccination is a matter of state and national law.
misinformation (noun): false or inaccurate information - It's important to distinguish between unintentional misinformation and deliberate disinformation.
MMR (abbreviation): measles, mumps, rubella vaccine
measles, mumps, rubella (nouns): three dangerous viral diseases that are endemic to most of the world - MMR is a combined vaccine that immunises (children) against measles, mumps and rubella.
passive immunity (noun): short-term immunity resulting from the transfer of antibodies from one person to another (for example from mother to newborn baby). See active immunity - Passive immunity is passed naturally from mother to infant when breast-feeding, giving breast milk a clear advantage over powdered formula milk.
pathogen (noun): a microorganism that can cause disease - The four most common types of pathogens are viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
preventable disease (noun): any disease that need not happen if normal precautions are taken, for example obesity - Every year over 3 million children under the age of 5 die from hunger—which may be considered a preventable disease.
shot (noun, informal): an injection of a drug or vaccine. See jab - Are you planning to get a flu shot this year?
side effect (noun): a (usually mild) health problem that happens after vaccination and that is known to be caused by the vaccine. Usually, side effects do not last long. See adverse event - If you have a headache it's probably just a side effect of the vaccine you had and it should go soon.
syringe (noun): a glass tube fitted with a hollow needle used for injecting a fluid (such as vaccine) or for withdrawing a fluid (such as blood) - The nurse injected the vaccine in my upper arm using a syringe.
vaccination (noun): the act of introducing a vaccine to the body, usually by injection and sometimes by mouth or by nose spray - They asked us to sit down and wait for thirty minutes after vaccination in case of any side effects.
vaccine (noun): a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies in the body and creates immunity against one or more diseases - Are there any Covid vaccines that only need one dose?
vaccine activist (noun): a person who is convinced of the validity of vaccination and actively promotes it - One of the earliest vaccination activists was the English surgeon John Ring who devoted much of his professional life to the cause of vaccination and died in 1821.
vaccine denier (noun): pejorative term used to describe a person who harbours doubts about the safety of vaccinating adults and especially children. Sometimes called anti-vaxxer.
vaccine effectiveness (noun): after clinical trials, when a vaccine is used in real life, the probability that the vaccine confers immunity in a population under routine vaccination circumstances - In the real world vaccine effectiveness may be influenced by local factors.
vaccine efficacy (noun): in clinical trials, the potential of a vaccine to protect from a disease, expressed as a percentage reduction of disease in a vaccinated group of people compared to an unvaccinated group - Which vaccine demonstrated the highest efficacy in clinical trials?
vaccine efficacy versus vaccine effectiveness (noun): in simple terms, efficacy is how well a vaccine performs in clinical trials and effectiveness is how well it performs in the real world - When faced with real-world conditions and real-life situations, vaccine effectiveness invariably differs from vaccine efficacy.
vaccine hesitancy (noun): reluctance by a person to be vaccinated based on suspicion or conviction that vaccines are wrong, inappropriate, unhealthy and/or dangerous in the short term or long term - What strategies can help overcome vaccine hesitancy?
vaccine passport (noun): as proposed by some jurisdictions, a document or electronic app showing that a person has received a Covid-19 vaccine. Some people advocate for a Chinese-style social credit system. At the other extreme the idea has been completely banned, as in Texas USA - It seems that "vaccine passport" means different things to different people.
vaccine-preventable disease (noun): any disease that can be prevented by prior vaccination - Polio is an example of a vaccine-preventable disease.
vaccine safety (noun): the degree to which a vaccine is harmless (as tested and monitored routinely throughout the development and use of all vaccines) - WHO state clearly that vaccine safety is one of their highest priorities. | We all agree that there remain many open, unanswered questions surrounding the...safety of covid-19 vaccines that must be answered...
vaccine types (noun): there are four main ways of making Covid-19 vaccines and these four types are shown in the table below:
|technology||brands||doses needed||other (approved) vaccine examples using same technology|
|protein subunit||Novavax||2||hepatitis B|
Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (proper noun): in the USA, a national vaccine safety monitoring system that collects reports of adverse events following vaccination, including for Covid-19 - In the USA, if you have had an adverse reaction to any recent vaccination you can report it online through VAERS, or check your own country for a similar system.
vial (noun): a very small glass bottle for holding medicine or vaccine - Depending in the vaccine and manufacturer each vial may hold approximately five to ten doses.
virus (noun): a microorganism smaller than a bacterium, too small to be seen with a light microscope, that causes infectious disease in animals and humans - Like all diseases caused by viruses, the common cold cannot be cured with antibiotics.
WHO (abbreviation): World Health Organization
World Health Organization (proper noun): a United Nations agency that promotes global health, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland - WHO was founded in 1948.
Reference and recommended vaccine links
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic WHO
- An A to Z of vaccine vocabulary Unicef
- Vaccination Glossary EU
- Vaccines Glossary CDC
- Vaccine Testing and the Approval Process CDC
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) CDC/FDA
- OpenVAERS COVID Vaccine Data (basic results from VAERS)
- Vaccine at Wikipedia Wikipedia
- Vaccine at Simple Wikipedia Simple Wikipedia
- Covid-19 vaccine at Wikipedia Wikipedia
- Vaccine-preventable diseases at Wikipedia Wikipedia
- Preventive healthcare at Wikipedia Wikipedia
- John Ring, 17th-century surgeon and early vaccination activist Wikipedia
- Covid-19: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is “likely” responsible for deaths of some elderly patients BMJ
- Covid-19: How independent were the US and British vaccine advisory committees? BMJ
- Covid-19 vaccines: In the rush for regulatory approval, do we need more data? BMJ
- Covid-19 vaccine rollout produced nine new billionaires France24
- Top Retractions of 2020 The Scientist
- The four types of Covid-19 vaccine
- EU Vaccine Industry in Figures [infographic]
- Dr Peter McCullough testifies to Texas Senate on outpatient treatment [video]
- Governor of Texas bans vaccine passports [video]
- Eric Clapton Details His Vaccine Injury [video]
- Why we petitioned the FDA to refrain from fully approving any covid-19 vaccine this year - The BMJ
- Rushed Covid-19 vaccine "colossally stupid" CNN
- Surgeon who operated on young Italian vaccine victim
- Mass Vaccination in a Pandemic - Benefits versus Risks [video]
- Medical worker has both legs amputated after contracting Covid-19 days after second vaccine dose Daily Mail
- 50,000+ Rally Against Vax Passes in London [video]
- Nuremberg Code on Experimentation and A Modern Hippocratic Oath