“Immunize vs. Vaccinate” from two perspectives

If you’ve read some of the mind-numbing comment posts about vaccination, you’ll will undoubtedly come across the following argument:

“Vaccination is not the same as immunization!”

That statement means different things to different people. To us scientists, it’s a “truism.” Vaccination is a way to immunize, so is a natural infectious process. Both may not immunize if the person getting the vaccine or the disease doesn’t react to the vaccine or the disease in a way that creates immunity. For example, there are plenty of people who are “non-responders” to the hepatitis B vaccine. That is, they don’t make detectable antibodies against hepatitis B when they go through the vaccination series. They’re not considered immune, but they are also not excluded from working in healthcare and other “risky” professions. Why? Because the jury is out as to whether or not non-responders are really not immune. That is, we don’t really know if they’ll be protected or not. But, by taking the vaccine series, they did the best they could to be protected, short of using personal protective equipment and universal precautions.

Anti-vaccine activists can’t get these concepts through their head, as exemplified in this explanation of “vaccine vs. immunization” by the “Vaccine Injury Help Center,” a blatantly anti-vaccine website run by a law office (i.e. not scientists). How anti-vaccine? Just look at their Facebook page, it reads like a anti-vaccine activist’s favorite reads. Anyway, their page reads thus:

“Did you know there is actually a difference between immunization and vaccination? Most people don’t realize that when you receive a shot or a vaccine, it does not mean you are immunized. Many people are confused with this concept.”

Right off the bat, the doubt creeps in. “I didn’t get immunized?” you may ask. The chances are very, very good that you did. If you got the measles vaccine, you only have a 10 in 100 chance of not being immunized. If you get the two shots (as recommended), you have a 1 in 100 chance of not being immunized. If you get a booster, your immunity is even more guaranteed. The anti-vaccine people are playing on the Nirvana fallacy, that anything not 100% safe is 100% evil. So they continue:

“Vaccines contain a dead or live but weakened germ that can cause a particular disease, like tetanus. When we are given a vaccine shot, our body immediately produces antibodies against the antigen or foreign body. It is at this point that most believe the body’s defense mechanism kicks in and immunity will occur in the event that the said antigen gains entry again into the body. But, this is not the case with all vaccines.”

I wasn’t joking when I told you that the site wasn’t run by scientists. The tetanus vaccine does not contain “dead or live but weakened” germs. It contains a toxoid, or inactivated toxin. You build up an immunity against the toxoid and not the bacteria. “But, this is not the case with all vaccines,” is, again, a truism. Vaccines are not 100% effective, and that’s okay. They’re effective enough to build herd immunity and keep us all safe if all of us use them.

“Vaccination does not guarantee immunity. Natural immunity happens only after one recovers from the actual disease. During the disease, the microorganism usually has to pass through many of the body’s natural immune defense systems—in the nose, throat, lungs, digestive tract and lymph tissue—before it reaches the bloodstream. As it does, the microorganism triggers many biological events that are essential in building true natural immunity. When a child gets a new disease, he may feel sick for several days, but, in the vast majority of cases, he will recover.”

Even more evidence that someone without any scientific training at all wrote this. Why? “Natural immunity happens only after one recovers from the actual disease.” That’s a load of horse manure. There are plenty of diseases, even vaccine-preventable ones, that you can get over and over again because you don’t build up any immunity against them, or your immunity doesn’t last. This is the case with influenza.

And that whole thing about “(w)hen a child gets a new disease, he may feel sick for several days, but, in the vast majority of cases, he will recover”? It makes me wonder if any of the lawyers who are on the firm that runs the site have actually read these statements, and the many others in the blog and “information” section. The whole post reads like parents should forgo vaccination because it’s not 100% effective but embrace natural disease because it is 100% effective in creating immunity (which it is not) and “in the vast majority of cases” their child will recover.

Yeah, put your kid through hell because the odds are really good they’ll make it and be immune… As opposed to putting the child through a mild inconvenience of a shot when the odds are just as good, if not better, that they will be immune?

I have no words. And, apparently, neither does the author of that post since the rest of the post is quote-mining from CDC and other sites, pointing out that even those organizations agree that vaccines are not 100% effective. BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT. Yet they are better than the disease.

7 thoughts on ““Immunize vs. Vaccinate” from two perspectives

    • Didn’t get a laugh, only nausea over the same old, rotten tripe and personal attacks.
      Not to mention the distraction attempts, attempting to move the conversation away from facts being discussed and into tangential directions away from anything remotely resembling a factual base conversation about things medical.
      Then, there is the absolute inability to use reason or comprehend basic facts in an evidence based manner.

      The funny thing is, we could find an Egyptian mummy and sequence poliovirus from one and the antivaxer would still deny it.
      Even money proclaiming it was planted by “Big Pharma” or some other nonsense.
      Or, by saying “See? It existed then and was harmless!”
      Ignoring the mummy’s having the virus proving that the virus was present in significant amounts at the time of death.

    • I got the laugh, Reuben…and also a great sense of satisfaction because Autism Mum is now the go-to-mommy-source in Wales. Just give Martine a little more time and she’ll supplant the crank go-to-mommy-sources in the U.K.

  1. One ponders the lawyer’s opinion that the child “would be sick for a few days” against such joys as diphtheria and polio.

  2. Also: herd immunity means that looking at individual failure rates doesn’t tell the full story. If you can successfully immunise 95% of the population, you can probably eradicate the disease altogether.

  3. Did that “vaccine injury lawyer’s site” happen to mention that there isn’t lasting immunity against pertussis conferred by the vaccine (i.e. secondary vaccine failure),…or actually contracting pertussis? Did they happen to mention why Tdap boosters are recommended for all pregnant women and all close household members who expect to have close contact with infants under the age of one…to protect babies who have not completed the full primary series of DTaP vaccines?

    Surely the lawyers know about the genetic studies conducted on children with supposed vaccine encephalopathy related to whole cell pertussis vaccines…that diagnosed a degenerative genetic syndrome (Dravet Syndrome), that caused their neurological impairments?


    How about the recent study of secondary vaccine failure/pertussis disease for those youngsters whose primary series of pertussis-containing vaccines was solely with acellular pertussis vaccine?


    Reduced Risk of Pertussis Among Persons Ever Vaccinated With Whole Cell Pertussis Vaccine Compared to Recipients of Acellular Pertussis Vaccines in a Large US Cohort

    “Background. Unexpected waning of immunity after pertussis vaccination is now well described. In this study we examined whether prior vaccination with whole-cell pertussis vaccine (wP) at any point provided superior protection contrasted with a solely acellular pertussis vaccine (aP) series. We utilized the coincidence of a large outbreak of pertussis with the termination of wP availability, providing populations of children who had been vaccinated with combinations of wP and aP.

    Methods. Kaiser Permanente (KP) is an integrated healthcare system with complete electronic records and a centralized laboratory. Cases of laboratory-confirmed pertussis and vaccination data for members aged 8–20 years were retrieved.

    Results. Among 263 496 persons aged 8–20 years, 904 cases of pertussis were identified. In patients with a full history of vaccinations administered by KP, those with 5 total doses of only aP had an 8.57 relative risk (RR) of pertussis (P < .0001) contrasted to those with ≥1 wP dose. With 6 doses of aP, the RR of disease was 3.55 (P < .0001). When external vaccine records were included, the results were similar.

    Conclusions. We found a markedly increased risk of disease associated with an entirely aP series. This risk was mitigated, but not eliminated, by the presence of a sixth dose of pertussis vaccine (Tdap). Receipt of 1 or more wP doses markedly augmented the durability of immunity from subsequent aP doses. It appears that a wholly acellular pertussis vaccine series is significantly less effective and durable than one that contains the traditional whole cell vaccine."

  4. I find the antivaxxers amazing in their ignorance. Much to my mother’s surprise and dismay, even with having measles (so she said – and as a doctor’s daughter from the 40’s and 50’s she saw it enough that her diagnostic skills were pretty darn good), I did not develop an immunity to it. I received the MMR in high school, and was tested again in college – non-immune. Received it again in college – non-immune. Had to get it again for midwifery school. I’ve not been tested since. I just hope I don’t meet anyone with measles, since at 50+ I really don’t want to get it, and I have no faith in my immune status. Strangely enough, I *did* become immune to rubella and chickenpox through the illnesses and my mumps titres from the vaccine are fine. Just not measles. Go figure….

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