Preventive Vaccines Versus Therapeutic Vaccines

While both contain the word “vaccine”, therapeutic and preventive vaccines are very different in how they affect the body, what they contain and when they are administered to an individual.

Preventive vaccines are commonplace in the United States and have been credited with the near elimination of several serious and often deadly diseases within the U.S such as measles, mumps, rubella and tetanus. Vaccinations are often provided during the early years of an individual’s life with some boosters and new vaccines added throughout the course of a life. By introducing a dead or weakened germ to a healthy immune system, a person can become resistant or even immune to a disease that once wreaked havoc throughout the world. Preventive vaccinations are completely safe and thoroughly tested and monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being recommended to the public by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Therapeutic vaccines are very different and are in the early stages of development. They are less common, but can provide an array of benefits to an individual who already has a particular illness. Therapeutic vaccinations are most commonly administered to an individual who is in the early stages of a disease such as cancer, HIV or herpes. Therefore, therapeutic vaccinations do not even treat the same illnesses as preventive vaccines. Therapeutic vaccines generally have far less side effects and they offer personalized treatment options to an individual. Studies show that they are best used in combination with another treatment option.

To learn more about the differences between preventive vaccines and therapeutic vaccines, review the information that has been provided within the sections below.

What is a Preventive Vaccine?

When you think of vaccinations, you likely think of preventative measures that are taken to ensure that you do not contract one of the many diseases that once plagued the United States and the world. Therefore, preventive vaccinations play a crucial role in keeping us heathy and protecting us from serious and deadly diseases.

A vaccine is made from tiny amounts of dead or weakened germs that can cause the disease that you would like to prevent. By exposing your body to this germ, your body becomes prepared to fight the disease faster, more effectively and in many cases, provides you with immunity to the actual disease.

Vaccines are completely safe to healthy people, including children and are tested thoroughly by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended for use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each vaccine will go through years of testing before becoming available to the public and each batch that is created is tested for:

  • Potency, to ensure that it will work the way it is supposed to
  • Purity, to ensure that ingredients that may have been used during production have been removed
  • Sterility, to ensure that there are no outside germs

Not only are vaccines thoroughly tested, but they are monitored closely even after they have become recommended to the public.

Since vaccines were first invented, the number of adults and children who become sick or die from a vaccine-preventable disease has sharply declined within the Unite States. Some diseases have become so rare that a case is not seen for years. Without vaccines, these diseases would still run rampant. Some of the serious diseases that can be prevented through vaccination include:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Rabies

Not everyone is able to receive a vaccination for these preventable diseases. Individuals who have severely weakened immune systems or those allergic to certain antibiotics may not be eligible to receive a vaccination. Therefore, it is imperative that vaccination schedules are followed, not only to protect yourself, but also to protect those who cannot fend off these horrendous diseases. This is a concept called herd immunity, or community immunity. Since germs can travel quickly, an outbreak can occur if enough people fall ill to one of these diseases. It is important to know that even though many of these diseases have become incredibly rare within the United States, it is crucial that citizens continue to be vaccinated for these preventable diseases. Other countries still experience these diseases, making it very possible for travelers to bring back disease to the United States, where an outbreak could occur if the appropriate vaccinations have not been received. Community immunity will only continue to protect United States citizens so long as citizens continue to get vaccinated.

What is a therapeutic Vaccine?

While preventive vaccinations are provided to most citizens as a measure of preventing a great number of diseases, therapeutic vaccinations are administered to people who are already afflicted by a particular disease. Therapeutic vaccines are also commonly referred to as therapeutic immunogens and, in recent years, studies have shown that this form of vaccination can have a positive effect on those afflicted with diseases such as:

  • Cancer
  • HIV
  • Herpes
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

While therapeutic vaccinations have the potentially to radically alter medical treatment, they have only begun to be used for successful treatments in recent years. Therapeutic vaccines offer personalized treatment to individuals afflicted with certain ailments. While preventive vaccines introduce dead or weakened germs to an immune system, therapeutic vaccinations can give rise to a healing response, allowing an immune system to become more adaptable and expand into ongoing protection. In theory, an immune system can then continue to expand and adapt following the initial therapeutic vaccination. However, it is worth knowing that a lot more research must be completed to perfect therapeutic vaccines as, currently, treatment strategies often fall far short of ideal goals. Therapeutic vaccines can still be viable for some patients, especially when combined with other treatment options, and they contain far less potential side effects in comparison to leading treatment options, such as chemotherapy.

When used for the treatment of cancers, therapeutic vaccines directly target your immune system rather than directly targeting tumors. There are several immunosuppressive factors within a tumor’s microenvironment that can substantially affect the success of therapeutic vaccines. This suggests that therapeutic vaccinations must be received in the early stages of a disease in order to maximize the likelihood of successful results of the treatment. Other studies have shown that combining therapeutic vaccinations alongside standard therapies may help to either neutralize or suppress the immunosuppressive factors within a tumor.

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