vaccine

[ vak-seen or, especially British, vak-seen, -sin ]
/ vækˈsin or, especially British, ˈvæk sin, -sɪn /

noun

any preparation used as a preventive inoculation to confer immunity against a specific disease, usually employing an innocuous form of the disease agent, as killed or weakened bacteria or viruses, to stimulate antibody production.
the virus of cowpox, used in vaccination, obtained from pox vesicles of a cow or person.
a software program that helps to protect against computer viruses, as by detecting them and warning the user.

adjective

of or relating to vaccination.
of or relating to vaccinia.
of, relating to, or derived from cows.

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Origin of vaccine

<New Latin (variolae) vaccīnae cowpox (in title of E. Jenner's treatise of 1798), equivalent to vacc(a) cow + -īnae, feminine plural of -īnus-ine1

OTHER WORDS FROM vaccine

pro·vac·cine, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does vaccine mean?

A vaccine is a substance introduced into someone’s body to prevent them from getting a specific disease. It usually consists of a small amount of a killed, weakened, or otherwise modified version of a disease (such as a virus or bacterium).

Vaccines work by allowing your immune system to develop defenses against that disease, called antibodies, so they can destroy it if it ever enters your body again.

Common vaccines include ones for strains of the flu, polio, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella. There are many others.

Example: The polio vaccine has saved millions of people.

Where does vaccine come from?

The history of the word vaccine is inseparable from the history of vaccines themselves. The story usually starts with smallpox, a highly contagious disease that killed millions of people throughout history. For a long time, people tried to reduce the risk of getting a deadly case of smallpox by infecting themselves with material (a nice way of saying scabs or pus) from a person who had a mild case of it. Sometimes, it worked—but it could also kill people.

In the 1790s, English doctor Edward Jenner got a big idea when observing people who milked cows and had gotten cowpox (a mild skin disease in cows that can be transferred to humans). Such people often seemed to be immune to the similar but much more serious smallpox. Jenner developed a process of introducing a small amount of cowpox into people’s bodies to protect them against smallpox (at least temporarily). He called this process vaccination, based on the Latin name he developed for cowpox, variolae vaccīnae (from the Latin vacca, meaning “cow”). And thus vaccine—both the word and the thing—was born. The development of the smallpox vaccine eventually led to the complete eradication of smallpox from the world in 1979. (A few samples are still kept in highly secure labs in the United States and Russia for research purposes).

Widespread adoption of vaccines is credited with saving millions of lives and successfully suppressing the spread of diseases like polio.

Today, vaccines typically consist of a small amount of a disease that’s modified in a way that won’t make people sick, the way the same small amount of the unmodified disease could. Some of these vaccines are killed or weakened versions of the disease, while others are microorganisms whose DNA has been modified to make them ineffective. In any case, the idea is the same: introducing an inactive or less effective version of the disease allows the body’s immune system to produce antibodies. These antibodies are there to destroy the disease if it ever enters the body again—ideally, granting immunity against the disease.

This is why the term vaccination is closely associated with immunization. Another closely related term is inoculation, which refers to the process of introducing a substance like a vaccine into the body to boost immunity. Most vaccines are administered through the skin with a syringe, though some can be given in another way, such as with a nasal spray.

The most common side effect of vaccines is soreness around where the shot was given. Vaccines can have serious side effects, but they are extremely rare. (Out of a million vaccinations, a few people might have a severe allergic reaction.) However, some people in recent years have begun to oppose the use of vaccines, especially in children, due to varying beliefs about the risks involved, many of which are not based on science. Such people are said to be (or identify as) part of what has been called the antivax movement.

Doctors and public health officials urge the continued use of vaccines due to the risk of what could happen without them. Without vaccines, individuals and entire populations would be at risk of getting many once-widespread diseases that have nearly disappeared from daily life. (For example, in some areas with low vaccination rates, there have been outbreaks of diseases once largely suppressed by vaccination, such as measles.) Of course, not every disease can be prevented by vaccination, but scientists continue to work on the development of new vaccines.

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What are some other forms related to vaccine?

What are some words that share a root or word element with vaccine

What are some words that often get used in discussing vaccine?

How is vaccine used in real life?

Vaccine is commonly used in the context of medicine. Children get different vaccines at different ages, and many people get a flu vaccine every year.

 

 

Try using vaccine!

Which of the following words would NOT typically be used in reference to a vaccine

A. inoculation
B. shot
C. prescription
D. immunization

Example sentences from the Web for vaccine

British Dictionary definitions for vaccine

vaccine
/ (ˈvæksiːn) /

noun med

a suspension of dead, attenuated, or otherwise modified microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, or rickettsiae) for inoculation to produce immunity to a disease by stimulating the production of antibodies
(originally) a preparation of the virus of cowpox taken from infected cows and inoculated in humans to produce immunity to smallpox
(modifier) of or relating to vaccination or vaccinia
computing a piece of software designed to detect and remove computer viruses from a system

Word Origin for vaccine

C18: from New Latin variolae vaccīnae cowpox, title of medical treatise (1798) by Edward Jenner, from Latin vacca a cow
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for vaccine

vaccine
[ văk-sēn văksēn′ ]

n.

A preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen, such as a bacterium or virus, or of a portion of the pathogen's structure that upon administration stimulates antibody production against the pathogen but is incapable of causing severe infection.
A vaccine prepared from the cowpox virus and inoculated against smallpox.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for vaccine

vaccine
[ văk-sēn ]

A preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen, such as a bacterium or virus, or of a portion of the pathogen's structure, that stimulates immune cells to recognize and attack it, especially through antibody production. Most vaccines are given orally or by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. See Note at Jenner.

A Closer Look

In the 1950s, polio epidemics left thousands of children with permanent physical disabilities. Today, infants are given a vaccine to prevent infection with the polio virus. That vaccine, like most others, works by stimulating the body's immune system to produce antibodies that destroy pathogens. Scientists usually prepare vaccines by taking a sample of the pathogen and destroying or weakening it with heat or chemicals. The inactivated or attenuated pathogen loses its ability to cause serious illness but is still able to stimulate antibody production, thereby conferring immunity. The Salk polio vaccine contains “killed” virus, while the Sabin polio vaccine contains weakened “live” poliovirus. (Many scientists no longer consider viruses to be living organisms) Scientists are also able to change the structure of viruses and bacteria at the molecular level, altering DNA so that the potential of the vaccine to cause disease is decreased. New vaccines containing harmless bits of DNA have also been developed.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for vaccine

vaccine
[ (vak-seen) ]

A substance prepared from dead or living microorganisms that is introduced into the body through inoculation. The vaccine causes the development of antibodies, which produce immunity to the disease caused by the microorganism.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.