With the COVID pandemic of the past two years, the terms “immunization” and “vaccination” can be found in almost every news article out there. In fact, many times writers interchangeably use the terms immunization and vaccination. Although the two words are related, they do not mean the same thing, which can sometimes cause confusion when they’re used incorrectly.
What is a vaccination?
A vaccine is a substance placed into a human body to stimulate the body’s natural immune system to generate a protective response. A vaccine basically trains the body to search for signs of a specific disease and when it sees it, quickly throw up a defense in the body so it can’t harm them.
Because a vaccine teaches a body to look for signals of a particular disease, the vaccine itself usually includes dead or weakened cells from the disease.
Because a vaccine sometimes contains weakened or dead disease cells, a person can sometimes have a reaction to it. For instance, you may experience very slight symptoms of the disease or the area where you received the shot may be tender or red. However, these symptoms generally last for a very short period of time. And many times vaccines cause no physical reactions to patients.
Vaccination is the process of a person receiving a vaccine. Although vaccinations are generally administered by a shot, you can also receive one through a nasal spray or even by mouth.
What is an immunization?
Immunization occurs when a person is fully protected from a certain disease through the vaccination process. In other words, the vaccination a person receives makes them resistant — or immune — to a particular disease.
Throughout history, the discovery of certain vaccines has led to people around the world being immunized to certain diseases. For example, measles, mumps, and rubella have been almost eradicated in certain parts of the world thanks to the MMR vaccine given to children when they are young. And vaccines for diseases like typhoid fever, rabies, hepatitis, and yellow fever help protect travellers when visiting countries where these diseases are still a threat.
Can you receive a vaccine for a disease and not become immune?
Everybody is different, which means every person’s response to a vaccine will be different. There are cases where a person receives a vaccination but does not become immune. And if you look at vaccine response rates, they are never 100% effective at providing immunization to everyone.
Because of this, it is important to always check what vaccinations or other preventive treatments you may need wherever you are travelling.
If you plan on travelling this year and require help figuring out what vaccinations you may need to update, contact one of Passport Health’s travel health specialists at to schedule an appointment.
Written for Passport Health by Corrie Pelc. Corrie Pelc is a freelance writer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has a passion for health and wellness, having written for publications including Exceptional Parent, DAYSPA, INVISION, Eyecare Professional, and Hepatitis Magazine.