What Is an Inactivated Vaccine? (2023)

An inactivated vaccine is one that uses a killed virus or bacteria to stimulate the immune system to protect the body against infection. Because the bacteria or virus is dead, it cannot replicate or cause disease.

While inactivated vaccines have the same aims as live vaccines—namely to generate immunity, including antibodies that fight diseases—they may induce a less robust response and often require multiple doses and/or booster shots to achieve adequate protection.

How Do Vaccines Work?

What Is an Inactivated Vaccine? (1)

History

Inactivated vaccines were first developed at the end of the 19th century. The practice of variolation (inoculating an uninfected person with pus from an infected person) was commonly used during the 18th century to prevent bacterial infections like smallpox, and it was also sometimes used for preventing diseases during outbreaks, such as typhoid, plague, and cholera.

Scientists in the 19th century learned that isolating the disease-causing pathogen, killing it, and injecting it into the body could still make the body recognize it as harmful, and trigger a disease-specific response. The first inactivated vaccines were developed in the 1880s and the first general-use cholera vaccine in 1896.

Over the generations, scientists have used different methods to kill pathogens being prepared for inactivated vaccines, including heat, chemicals, and radiation.

By the 20th century, chemical inactivation was successfully applied to viruses, in some cases involving the whole pathogen and, in others, only part of the pathogen. It is the latter discovery that led to the development of the subunit vaccine.

History of Vaccines and Vaccinations

Types of Inactivated Vaccines

There are 85 single and combination vaccines approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among these are the many inactivated vaccines, also known as whole-killed vaccines, that protect against the following diseases:

  • Hepatitis A (given by injection in two doses)
  • Influenza(given as aflu shot annually)
  • Japanese encephalitis (given by injection in two doses)
  • Polio (given by injection in four doses for children and not typically given to adults unless they didn't get it during childhood)
  • Rabies (given by injection in three doses)
  • Typhoid (given as a single shot before travel to an endemic region)

Some inactivated vaccines are no longer available in the United States, including those for cholera and plague.

Advantage and Disadvantages

There are pros and cons to every vaccine. In many cases, there is only one version of a vaccine to choose from. Even so, understanding how inactivated vaccines work can help you understand why vaccine doses differ and why some cost more than others.

Vaccine Durability

Vaccine durability refers to the timeframe that a vaccine is effective. Comparatively speaking, the durability of inactivated vaccines tends to fall short when compared to live vaccines. This is because the immune system can better recognize a bacteria or virus that actively replicates, even if it doesn't cause disease.

While inactivated vaccines may require up to four doses to achieve the optimal level of protection, live ones generally require one or two.

(Video) What is an Inactivated Vaccine?

Examples:

  • A live vaccine like the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine only requires two doses and delivers what is effectively lifetime protection.
  • An inactivated vaccine like the one used for rabies may be needed every six months to two years for those at increased risk of exposure, such as veterinarians, animal control and wildlife officers, and those who work in rabies virus research labs.
  • The live oral typhoid vaccine requires repeated doses every five years for people in endemic regions and the inactivated typhoid vaccine delivered by injection requires a repeat dose every two years.

Subunit Vaccine Durability: While subunit vaccines are technically inactivated, they do not involve the whole pathogen (but rather a fragment of a pathogen) and are considered a distinct category of vaccines. The fragment that's used is chosen for its strong antigenic (immune-stimulating) effect. Subunit vaccines often need booster shots to maintain immune protection.

Storage and Shipping

Because the pathogen in the vaccine is dead, inactivated vaccines have the advantage of being easily stored and shipped, which makes transport easier, especially in parts of the world where resources are limited.

Live vaccines, on the other hand, typically require special shipping and storage requirements. This limitation creates problems in resource-poor areas. These needs can also increase costs and lead to waste due to shorter shelf life.

Storage and shipping have become major topics of concern with the approval of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in 2020, both of which require subzero storage temperatures. This limits their distribution to sites that have the facilities to properly store them, slowing the rate of vaccination.

Vaccine Side Effects You Should Know About

Vaccine Safety

Inactivated vaccines can be given to most people because there is no chance of the dead virus causing disease. With live vaccines, however, there is a small chance that a virus can replicate and cause illness in some people.

With that said, the only vaccine that is known to have reverted to its pathogenic (disease-causing) form is the live oral polio vaccine, which is no longer used in the United States.

There is a live vaccine for influenza that is licensed in the United States called FluMist, and the live oral vaccine for polio is not licensed in the US.

Can You Get the Flu From a Flu Shot?

Live Vaccine Risk Groups

Organ transplant recipients or anyone taking immunosuppressive drugs, people with HIV, and those undergoing cancer chemotherapy can be at risk of getting an infection from a live vaccine. Not all live vaccines need to be avoided in these situations, but the benefits and risks need to be weighed.

Can Immunocompromised People Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

(Video) What is an Inactivated Vaccine?

A Word From Verywell

Vaccines are among the greatest achievements of medical science. Irrespective of their type, the benefits—in terms of prevention of disease, illness, and death—greatly outweigh the risks.

The avoidance of vaccines not only places you or your child at risk but threatens the resurgence of diseases once thought eliminated. Such is the case with measles, a disease declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 that is making a big comeback due in part to anti-vaccination myths and misconceptions.

How to Talk to a Vaccine Skeptic

10 Sources

(Video) 1_8 How do inactivated vaccines work?

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Plotkin S. History of vaccination. PNAS. 2014Aug;111(34):12283-7. doi:10.1073/pnas.1400472111

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines licensed for use in the United States.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Principles of vaccination.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination: what everyone should know.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies vaccine: What you need to know.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typhoid VIS.

  7. Arvas A. Vaccination in patients with immunosuppression. Turk Pediatri Ars. 2014 Sep;49(3):181-5. doi:10.5152/tpa.2014.2206

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Principles of vaccination: immunology and vaccine-preventable diseases. In: Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: The Pink Book: Course Textbook - 13th Edition.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety: overview, history, and how the safety process works.

  10. Feemster KA, Szipszky C. Resurgence of measles in the United States: how did we get here?. Curr Opin Pediatr.2020 Feb;32(1):139-44. doi:10.1097/MOP.0000000000000845

What Is an Inactivated Vaccine? (3)

By Pat Bass, MD
Dr. Bass is a board-certified internist, pediatrician, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.

(Video) Wha is a Live Attenuated Vaccine?

FAQs

What is the difference between a live vaccine and an inactivated vaccine? ›

Live virus vaccines use the weakened (attenuated) form of the virus. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine are examples. Killed (inactivated) vaccines are made from a protein or other small pieces taken from a virus or bacteria.

What type of vaccine is an inactivated? ›

Inactivated vaccines take a live pathogen and inactivate or kill it. When the vaccine is then introduced to a human through a shot, for example, the inactivated pathogen is strong enough to create an immune response, however, is incapable of causing disease.

What is an example of an inactivated vaccine select one? ›

Inactivated vaccines include whole-cell inactivated vaccines (e.g., polio, hepatitis A, and rabies vaccines), subunit vaccines (e.g., influenza and pneumococcal vaccines), toxoids (e.g., diphtheria and tetanus toxoid), and recombinant vaccines (e.g., hepatitis B, human papillomavirus [HPV], and influenza [Flublok brand ...

What is inactivated vaccine means? ›

Inactivated vaccines are another form of vaccine, where the virus is inactivated during the process of making the vaccine. Inactivated vaccines are not strongly influenced by antibodies in the host body, compared to live vaccines.

How do inactivated vaccines work? ›

Inactivated vaccines contain viruses whose genetic material has been destroyed by heat, chemicals or radiation so they cannot infect cells and replicate, but can still trigger an immune response.

What are the two types of vaccines? ›

The main types of vaccines that act in different ways are: Live-attenuated vaccines. Inactivated vaccines.

How is virus inactivated? ›

Today, there are six licensed viral vaccines that are inactivated with either formaldehyde or BPL. Formaldehyde is used for the inactivation of Poliovirus (PV), Hepatitis A Virus (HAV), Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV), and Tick Borne Encephalitis Virus (TBEV) to generate vaccines.

What are the three types of vaccines? ›

There are several types of vaccines, including: Inactivated vaccines. Live-attenuated vaccines. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

Which of the following are inactive viral vaccine? ›

Today, inactivated vaccines exist for many pathogens, including influenza, polio (IPV), rabies, hepatitis A and pertussis.

Which vaccine is a live vaccine? ›

Examples of live virus vaccines are the chickenpox vaccine and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Can live and inactivated vaccines be given together? ›

Inactivated vaccines may be administered at the same time or at any time before or after a live vaccine.

Which vaccines are DNA vaccines? ›

DNA vaccines against different antigens
Name of DNA vaccineAntigen against which the DNA vaccine was directedReferences
PCE6Eta640
PCE18FliC40
S iniae DNA vaccine in the form of plasmid pSia10Sia1083
pcDNA3-LTDNA vaccineMCPyVlarge T antigen (LT) (aa1-258)82
3 more rows
1 Mar 2013

What was the first inactivated vaccine? ›

Influenza vaccine was the first successful inactivated virus vaccine (45), and experience with that vaccine served Salk well in his successful effort to develop an inactivated polio vaccine (46).

Is the Covid vaccine live or inactivated? ›

No. The COVID-19 vaccines currently being developed in the U.S. don't use the live virus that causes COVID-19 .

When is a virus inactive? ›

Virus inactivation is defined as a loss of viral titer with time due to disruption of coat proteins and degradation of nucleic acid (Gerba, 1984).

What does inactivated flu vaccine mean? ›

The fluid containing virus is harvested from the eggs. For inactivated influenza vaccines (i.e., flu shots), the vaccine viruses are then inactivated (killed), and the virus antigen is purified.

How does the inactivated flu vaccine work? ›

Inactivated vaccines are essentially the protein coat of whatever you're trying to vaccinate against. Think of it as what the bacteria or virus is “wearing.” Live/attenuated vaccines are viruses or bacteria that have been weakened.

How do vaccines work simple explanation? ›

Vaccines give you immunity to a disease without you getting sick first. They are made using killed or weakened versions of the disease-causing germ or parts of the germ (called antigens). For some vaccines, genetic engineering is used to make the antigens used in the vaccine.

What was the first vaccine? ›

Edward Jenner is considered the founder of vaccinology in the West in 1796, after he inoculated a 13 year-old-boy with vaccinia virus (cowpox), and demonstrated immunity to smallpox. In 1798, the first smallpox vaccine was developed.

What type of vaccine is Johnson and Johnson? ›

Johnson & Johnson's Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine and can be given in some situations.

How is the Covid vaccine different from other vaccines? ›

While other vaccines trick the body's cells into creating parts of the virus that can trigger the immune system, the Novavax vaccine takes a different approach. It contains the spike protein of the coronavirus itself, but formulated as a nanoparticle, which cannot cause disease.

What's the meaning of inactivate? ›

: to make inactive: as. a : to destroy certain biological activities of inactivate the complement of normal serum by heat. b : to cause (as an infectious agent) to lose disease-producing capacity inactivate bacteria. Other Words from inactivate. inactivation \ (ˌ)in-​ˌak-​tə-​ˈvā-​shən \ noun.

What is inactivated vaccine Covid 19? ›

Inactivated vaccines for COVID-19

This type of vaccine contains the killed SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is recognised by the immune system to trigger a response without causing COVID-19 illness.

What type of virus do inactivated flu vaccines contain? ›

Inactivated flu vaccines usually contain very small amounts of egg proteins (ovalbumin), as the virus is often grown on hens' eggs. People who are allergic to eggs should ask their doctor for advice.

What are the 5 different classes of vaccines used in active immunity? ›

As mentioned earlier, there are five main types of vaccines: attenuated (live) vaccines, inactivated vaccines, toxoid vaccines, subunit vaccines, and conjugate vaccines.

What type of vaccine is the flu shot? ›

All flu vaccines for the 2022-2023 season are quadrivalent vaccines, designed to protect against four different flu viruses, including two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

What is vaccine give example? ›

Examples of live, attenuated vaccines include measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. Even though they are very effective, not everyone can receive these vaccines. Children with weakened immune systems—for example, those who are undergoing chemotherapy—cannot get live vaccines.

Is rotavirus an inactivated vaccine? ›

The vaccine contains live human rotavirus that has been weakened (attenuated), so that it stimulates the immune system but does not cause disease in healthy people. However it should not be given to people who are clinically immunosuppressed (either due to drug treatment or underlying illness).

What type of inactivated flu vaccine is recommended for infants? ›

Vaccine choice

Children aged 6 months to less than 2 years who are in a clinical risk group should be offered the egg-grown quadrivalent (inactivated) influenza vaccine.

Is the polio vaccine a live virus vaccine? ›

Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) protects people against all three types of poliovirus. IPV does not contain live virus, so people who receive this vaccine do not shed the virus and cannot infect others, and the vaccine cannot cause disease. IPV does not stop transmission of the virus.

Is yellow fever a live vaccine? ›

A safe and effective yellow fever vaccine has been available for more than 80 years. A single dose provides lifelong protection for most people. The vaccine is a live, weakened form of the virus given as a single shot.

Is hepatitis B vaccine a live vaccine? ›

Hepatitis B vaccine contains no live virus, so neither pregnancy nor lactation should be considered a contraindication to vaccination of women. Until safety data are available for HepB-CpG, providers should use Engerix-B or Recombivax HB vaccines to vaccinate pregnant women needing hepatitis B vaccination.

Is meningitis a live vaccine? ›

No type of vaccine contains live or intact meningococcal bacteria.

Which vaccines should not be given together? ›

In persons with anatomic or functional asplenia and/or HIV infection, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4)-D (MenACWY-D, Menactra) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)13 (PCV13, Prevnar 13) should not be administered simultaneously (27).

Can you get 2 vaccines in the same arm? ›

You can get both vaccines in one arm (at least an inch apart), or a vaccine in each arm. It's up to you. For certain flu vaccines that might be more likely to cause symptoms where they are injected, separate arms are recommended if possible.

Which vaccines contain blood products? ›

Answer: Human blood products are not typically found in vaccines. The exceptions to this are two rabies vaccines (Imovax® Rabies and RabAvert®) that contain albumin derived from human blood.

Is the flu vaccine a DNA vaccine? ›

and bacteria, viruses, your children, and your pets are all exposing you to DNA all the time. Your body is absorbing DNA all the time without any ill effects. DNA/RNA are in flu vaccines because DNA/RNA exist in flu viruses. However, flu vaccines do not contain the types of viruses that make you sick.

What is 4th generation vaccine? ›

The 4th generation vaccine we theorize here depends upon the specificity of receptor-ligand binding, but is a biochemical molecule constructed artificially for the purpose and intent of neutralizing the infectious agent.

What type of vaccine is AstraZeneca? ›

Viral vector vaccines

The AstraZeneca viral vector vaccine uses a modified, non-pathogenic, weakened animal virus that contains the genetic code for the coronavirus' unique spike protein.

Who made the first vaccine? ›

Dr Edward Jenner created the world's first successful vaccine. He found out that people infected with cowpox were immune to smallpox. In May 1796, English physician Edward Jenner expands on this discovery and inoculates 8-year-old James Phipps with matter collected from a cowpox sore on the hand of a milkmaid.

What is the fastest vaccine in history? ›

For Maurice Hilleman, the invention of the mumps vaccine combined good science and good parenting. Until COVID-19 vaccines, it would be the fastest vaccine development in history. Five-year-old Jeryl Lynn of suburban Philadelphia woke up sick one night in 1963 and padded out of her bedroom to wake her father.

How many human vaccines are there? ›

In total there are now at least 28 human diseases against which we have effective vaccines. The breakthrough that allowed us to get there was made in the late 18th century, the smallpox vaccine was the very first vaccine.

What is the difference between AstraZeneca and Pfizer? ›

While both vaccines are carrying instructions that encode for the COVID-19 spike protein, AstraZeneca uses a harmless virus to deliver its package, whereas the Pfizer vaccine uses a lipid bubble. Secondly, the AstraZeneca vaccine converts its genetic code from DNA to mRNA.

How long does Covid vaccine stays in your body? ›

Even before Omicron and its subvariants, there was concern about how long the protection from COVID-19 vaccines would last. Earlier research from the CDC suggested that protection from the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines could start to fade around 4 months after a booster dose.

What are the different types of vaccines developed for COVID-19? ›

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Moderna (mRNA-1273) COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
  • J&J COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.
  • COVAXIN.
  • Covovax.

What is inactivated vaccine? ›

Inactivated vaccines are another form of vaccine, where the virus is inactivated during the process of making the vaccine. Inactivated vaccines are not strongly influenced by antibodies in the host body, compared to live vaccines.

What is an example of an inactivated vaccine? ›

Inactivated vaccines include whole-cell inactivated vaccines (e.g., polio, hepatitis A, and rabies vaccines), subunit vaccines (e.g., influenza and pneumococcal vaccines), toxoids (e.g., diphtheria and tetanus toxoid), and recombinant vaccines (e.g., hepatitis B, human papillomavirus [HPV], and influenza [Flublok brand ...

How do viruses reactivate? ›

Latent Viruses & Reactivation

This can occur when there is a specific trigger such as a different infection that distracts the immune system, and or when an external stimulus reaches the latent reservoir cells, 'awakening' the viral genome to start producing active viral particles rather than staying quiet.

What are considered live vaccines? ›

Types of Live Viral Vaccines
  • Chickenpox (varicella) vaccines.
  • FluMist (intranasal flu nasal spray)
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines.
  • Japanese encephalitis vaccine.
  • Oral polio vaccine (no longer used in the United States)
  • Rotavirus vaccines.
30 May 2021

What means live vaccine? ›

VY-rus vak-SEEN) A vaccine made from a virus that has been weakened so it does not cause the disease the virus usually causes. A live virus vaccine helps the body's immune system recognize and fight infections caused by the non-weakened form of the virus.

What is the difference between live vaccine and killed vaccine in poultry? ›

Live vaccines use altered or diluted microbes to produce long-lasting immunity with a single exposure, but produce symptoms in the bird (vaccine reactions). Killed vaccines do not produce vaccine reactions, but offer much less protection and may require multiple injections.

What are the different types of vaccines developed for Covid 19? ›

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Moderna (mRNA-1273) COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
  • J&J COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.
  • COVAXIN.
  • Covovax.

Is yellow fever a live vaccine? ›

A safe and effective yellow fever vaccine has been available for more than 80 years. A single dose provides lifelong protection for most people. The vaccine is a live, weakened form of the virus given as a single shot.

What are live and killed vaccines? ›

Vaccines in the United States are classified as "inactivated" or "live attenuated." An inactivated vaccine works when the immune system responds to a piece of a bacteria or virus or to a toxin produced by the germ. Live “attenuated” vaccines mean they have been changed such that they do not cause disease.

How is the Covid vaccine different from other vaccines? ›

While other vaccines trick the body's cells into creating parts of the virus that can trigger the immune system, the Novavax vaccine takes a different approach. It contains the spike protein of the coronavirus itself, but formulated as a nanoparticle, which cannot cause disease.

Can live and inactivated vaccines be given together? ›

Inactivated vaccines may be administered at the same time or at any time before or after a live vaccine.

Is polio vaccine a live virus? ›

Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) protects people against all three types of poliovirus. IPV does not contain live virus, so people who receive this vaccine do not shed the virus and cannot infect others, and the vaccine cannot cause disease. IPV does not stop transmission of the virus.

Is meningitis a live vaccine? ›

No type of vaccine contains live or intact meningococcal bacteria.

Is DPT a killed vaccine? ›

In comparison to alternative vaccine types, such as live attenuated vaccines, the DTP vaccine does not contain the pathogen itself, but rather uses inactivated toxoid to generate an immune response; therefore, there is not a risk of use in populations that are immune compromised since there is not any known risk of ...

What vaccines are killed? ›

Today, inactivated vaccines exist for many pathogens, including influenza, polio (IPV), rabies, hepatitis A and pertussis.

What type of vaccine is BCG? ›

BCG, or bacille Calmette-Guerin, is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease. Many foreign-born persons have been BCG-vaccinated. BCG is used in many countries with a high prevalence of TB to prevent childhood tuberculous meningitis and miliary disease.

How long does Covid vaccine stays in your body? ›

Even before Omicron and its subvariants, there was concern about how long the protection from COVID-19 vaccines would last. Earlier research from the CDC suggested that protection from the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines could start to fade around 4 months after a booster dose.

What type of vaccine is AstraZeneca? ›

Viral vector vaccines

The AstraZeneca viral vector vaccine uses a modified, non-pathogenic, weakened animal virus that contains the genetic code for the coronavirus' unique spike protein.

Do all Covid vaccines use mRNA? ›

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA . Vector vaccine. In this type of vaccine, genetic material from the COVID-19 virus is placed in a modified version of a different virus (viral vector).

Videos

1. SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines Development: Inactivated Vaccines
(Medscape)
2. How Effective Is Sinovac? Inactivated Virus VS mRNA Vaccine | Talking Point | COVID-19
(CNA Insider)
3. Vaccines, Part 2; Inactivated or Killed Vaccines
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4. COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Check – Episode 5: Inactivated COVID-19 vaccine
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5. What is an Attenuated Vaccine?
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6. Inactivated Vaccines | Killed Vaccines | Preparation Methods | Examples | CN Lectures
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