Facts About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

32 Infectious Diseases Vaccines Can Protect Against

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Vaccines are without question among the greatest public health achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries. They have greatly reduced the incidence of infectious diseases that once caused widespread illness, disability, and death around the world.

As a result of vaccines, a few diseases have even eliminated (meaning reduced to zero in a specific geographic area). Meanwhile, one disease (smallpox) has been eradicated (meaning reduced to zero worldwide).

Pretty girl getting a bandaid after receiving her shot
asiseeit / Getty Images

Even so, continued vigilance is needed to ensure that enough children are vaccinated to avoid the resurgence of eliminated diseases (such as recent outbreaks of measles in the United States).

Continue research and innovation are also needed to protect against new and emerging diseases, such as was experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic.

List of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Not all infectious diseases can be prevented with vaccines. Even so, there are a growing number of vaccines being developed to either prevent new diseases (like COVID-19) or offer better protection than some of the older vaccines.

Some of these are given on a vaccine schedule recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of experts within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Others are used for special circumstances, such as to protect against tropical diseases when traveling abroad.

Today, there are 32 different infectious diseases vaccines can protect against:

Even though smallpox was eliminated in 1979, there are stores of smallpox vaccine kept at two facilities (one in the United States and one in Russia). The stocks are maintained in part to respond to any threat of biological warfare.

Disease Prevention in Children

Vaccination schedules, also known as immunization schedules, are used to ensure that individuals are protected from infections at appropriate times in their lives. If enough of the population is immunized, herd immunity can build, reducing the rate of infection within the larger community.

While all of the vaccines on the U.S. immunization schedule are ACIP-recommended, they aren't necessarily mandated in all states. For example, the MMR vaccine used to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella is mandated in all 50 states, but the HPV vaccine is mandated in only three states.

Moreover, depending on the state, the mandating body may be the state legislature, the state Department of Health, or even the individual school district.

Currently, the childhood vaccination schedule in the United States protects against 16 infectious diseases. The vaccinations start at birth and may continue right up to one's 18th birthday. They are (by the order of vaccination):

  • Hepatitis B
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • Hib
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Polio
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Varicella
  • Hepatitis A
  • HPV
  • Meningococcal disease

The vaccines are each given in a series of scheduled doses to afford long-lasting immune protection.

In some cases, booster shots are needed during adolescence or adulthood to prolong immunity. In other instances, additional doses or vaccines may be prescribed to protect those at increased risk (such as immunocompromised people).

Disease Prevention in Adults

Children aren't the only ones who need routine vaccination. There are certain infectious diseases that are more common in adults and/or more likely to cause severe illnesses or death.

There are three reasons why vaccines are needed in adults:

  • Not all vaccines protect forever. While some like the HPV vaccine delivered what is considered to be life-long protection, other diseases require booster doses to maintain immunity.
  • Not all adults are up to date on their vaccines. Those who have not been vaccinated during childhood may need to "catch up" to avoid getting the disease later in life. This includes adults through age 26 who have not gotten the HPV vaccine, or adults born in 1980 or later who have not been vaccinated against chickenpox and have no evidence of prior infection.
  • Certain adults are at increased risk. Some adults require vaccines that others don't. This includes pregnant women in whom pertussis can cause fetal death or healthcare workers who not only risk illness but the spread of infection to patients.

The ACIP recommends routine vaccination to prevent the following diseases in all adults:

  • Influenza (annually)
  • Tetanus (every 10 years as part of the Td vaccine)
  • Diphtheria (every 10 years as part of the Td vaccine)
  • Pertussis (once, replacing a Td dose with a dose of the Tdap vaccine)
  • Herpes-zoster virus (at age 50 and over)
  • Pneumococcal disease (at age 65 and over)

While it has been presumed by many that ongoing COVID-19 vaccination may be needed, this has not yet been established. At present, COVID-19 vaccination is limited to people 16 years of age and over.

List of FDA-Approved Vaccines

Some vaccines are given on their own. Others are used in combination to reduce the number of vaccinations are child or adult needs to receive.

For example, the aforementioned MMR vaccine is almost always used in combination to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella rather than individually. The same applies to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis for which the DTaP vaccine is used for primary vaccination, while the Td and Tdap vaccines are used for boosters.

There are today over 70 different vaccines approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in children and adults.

Vaccine Type Abbreviation Trade Names
Adenovirus type 4 and 7 ADV No trade name
Anthrax AVA Biothrax
Cholera (inactivated) CVD Dukoral
Euvichol
ShanChol
Cholera (live) lCVD Vaxchora
COVID-19 (messenger RNA)* COVID-19 mRNA Moderna COVID-19
Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19
COVID-19 (recombinant)* COVID-19 RT Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19
Dengue fever DFV Dengvaxis
Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis DTaP Daptacel
Infanrix
Ebola EBV Ervebo
Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) Hib ActHIB
Hiberix
PedvaxHIB
Hepatitis A HAV Havrix
Vaqta
Hepatitis B HBV Engerix-B
Recombivax HB
Heplisav-B
Hepatitis A and B HAV/HBV Twinrix
Herpes-zoster virus HZV Shingrix
Human papillomavirus HPV Gardasil-9
Influenza (inactivated, by injection) IIV Multiple
Influenza (live, by nasal spray) LAIV4 FluMist
Influenza (recombinant, by injection) RIV4 Flublok
Japanese encephalitis JEV Ixiaro
Measles, mumps, and rubella MMR MMR II
Meningococcal disease MenACWY
MenB
Benveo
Menactra
Menveo
MenQuadfi
Trumenba
Plague none No trade name
Pneumococal disease PVC13
PPSV23
Prevnar 13
Pneumovax 23
Polio IPV IPOL
Rabies RABV Imovax
Rabavert
Rotavirus RV Rotarix
RotaTeq
Tetanus and diphtheria Td Tenivac
TDvax
Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis Tdap Adacel
Boostrix
Tuberculosis TB TICE BCG
Typhoid fever (inactivated) ViPS Typhim Vi
Typhoid fever (live) TCV Vivotif
Varicella VZV Varivax
Yellow fever YF YF-Vax
* Granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA

There are vaccines for hepatitis E, malaria, and tick-borne encephalitis used in other countries, none of which have been approved by the FDA due to their poor efficacy.

A Word From Vaccines

As vital as vaccines are to preventing potentially serious illnesses, they only work if you use them. Today, there is a growing anti-vaccine movement that is founded on the belief that vaccines are harmful and that immunity can be built "naturally."

This couldn't be further from the truth. Without exception, the benefits of the vaccines approved by the FDA and ACIP outweigh any potential risks. Sure, there may be side effects (occasionally serious), and some people may not be able to get certain vaccines for health reasons (such as allergy or immunodeficiency).

Even so, by getting vaccinated on the schedule recommended by the ACIP, you not only protect yourself or your child from disease but prevent the spread of infection within your community.

Vaccines Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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Article Sources
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