What Are the Different Types of Vaccines?

Paul A. Offit, MD, highlights the different types of vaccines and how each is made.

Transcript

What are the different types of vaccines?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name’s Paul Offit. I’m talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. One thing that some parents wonder about is, “How does one make vaccines?” Or said another way, “What are the different types of vaccines?” And here’s what I would say.

First, one way to make a vaccine is that you take a virus and you weaken it. Weaken it so that it can reproduce itself enough to induce an immune response, but not enough to cause disease. And that’s the way that the measles vaccine is made, the mumps vaccine is made, the chickenpox vaccine, the rubella, or German measles vaccine, and the rotavirus vaccines.

Another way that you can make a vaccine is you can take a bacteria that normally makes a toxin, like tetanus, or diphtheria. And so those bacterial infections are more intoxications, frankly, than they are infections. So you take the toxin made by those bacteria, and you kill it with a chemical. And then that becomes your vaccine. And that’s the way the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines are made. And in some ways the whooping cough vaccine is made similarly too because the whopping couch bacteria also can make a toxin, and so that is another example of that kind of vaccine.

Another way you can make a vaccine is you can take a bacteria, like the bacteria that causes a meningococcal infection, pneumococcal infections, another infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b. And you take this complex sugar coating of that bacteria, called polysaccharide, link it to a harmless protein and then that becomes your vaccine.

So another way, yet and finally … the final way that one can make a vaccine is you can take a virus and instead of weakening it, you can kill it. And that’s the way that the polio vaccine is made. That’s the way the rabies vaccine is made. That’s the way the hepatitis A vaccine is made.

And one more, there’s one more way that you can make a vaccine, which is that you can take just a part of the virus. So you just take one protein from the virus that you know induces an antibody response that can completely neutralize the virus. And that then becomes your vaccine. And those single protein vaccines are the hepatitis B vaccine and the human papillomavirus vaccine.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Aug 11, 2015