Personal Health
Immunization Basics

Vaccines are among the 20th Century's most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only prevent a vaccinated individual from developing a potentially serious disease, but they also help protect the entire community by reducing the spread of infectious agents.

Most vaccine-preventable diseases are caused by germs that are called "viruses" or "bacteria." Vaccines to help prevent these diseases generally contain weakened or killed viruses or bacteria specific to the disease. Vaccines help your body recognize and fight these germs and protect you each time you come in contact with someone who is sick with any of these diseases.


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**Information provided by the Washington State Department of Health, Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, National Network for Immunization Information, and Immunization Action Coalition.

Immunization Basics

There are a series of steps that your body goes through in fighting these diseases:

  • STEP 1:
    A vaccine is given by a shot (influenza vaccine may be given by a nasal spray.
  • STEP 2:
    Over the next few weeks the body makes antibodies and memory cells against the weakened or dead germs in the vaccine.
  • STEP 3:
    The antibodies can fight the real disease germs if the person is exposed to the germs and they invade the body. The antibodies will help destroy the germs and the person will not become ill.
  • STEP 4:
    Antibodies and memory cells stay on guard in the body for years after the vaccination to safeguard it from the real disease germs.

Most vaccines are given to babies and young children, but some are needed throughout your lifetime to make sure you stay protected. This protection is called "immunity". Vaccines are an important and safe way to keep you healthy!

Immunization Basics for Specific Groups

Immunization Information for: ADULTS

Immunization Information for: parents (Infants/toddlers, pre-teens and adolescents

immunization Information for: college students and young adults

immunization Information for: Pregnant women

Immunization Information for: people with specific diseases/conditions

Immunization Information for: spanish-speaking

Immunization Information for: health care workers

Immunization Information for: schools & child care

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This page last updated: 05/14/12