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About Vaccines:
Why Vaccinate?

Vaccines save up to 3 million lives around the world each year. They give people long-term, and sometimes lifelong, protection against certain infectious diseases. Vaccines are usually recommended during early childhood to help prevent diseases like measles and chickenpox. They also play an important role in adolescence and adulthood.

We may need vaccines to help protect us from:
  • conditions that affect adults
  • diseases we’re exposed to while traveling
  • new threats like COVID-19

Getting a vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself against some of the world’s most challenging infectious diseases.

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And by getting vaccinated, you help to:
icon reduce disease

Reduce the spread of disease to loved ones

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Build herd immunity, which helps prevent a disease from spreading in a community

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Help protect people who can’t be vaccinated, like newborns or those with chronic illnesses

Here are some of the diseases vaccines help protect us from:

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by teaching your immune system to recognize certain viruses. After you receive a vaccine, your body will be more prepared to fight back. Vaccines help prevent or reduce the severity of the illness if you are exposed to the virus that causes the disease.

The science behind many types of vaccines has existed for decades. Many different techniques are used to make vaccines, and they each work in specific ways.

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Common Types of Vaccines:

Subunit
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Instead of using the whole virus, subunit vaccines use just small pieces of a virus. These pieces can't give you the disease. They can be the protein, sugar, or casing around the virus. This kind of vaccine teaches your body how to recognize the actual virus and attack it when needed.

Scientists created the first subunit vaccine in the 1980s to help prevent hepatitis B. This technology has been used for many other vaccines as well, including shingles and human papillomavirus (HPV). Novavax is using the same well-established technology in our vaccine development.

Whole Virus
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Whole virus vaccines are made using a weakened or inactivated version of the virus it intends to fight. Since it uses an inactivated form of a virus, it cannot infect your cells and make you sick. However, it can still trigger an immune response. This response can help prevent illness if you come into contact with or are exposed to the live virus.

This type of technology has been used for rabies and hepatitis A vaccines.

Viral Vector
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Viral vector vaccines work by using a changed, harmless virus. This is called the “vector.” A vector is like a vehicle that carries instructions to our cells on how to fight against a particular disease.

Hundreds of scientific studies have been done and published worldwide on viral vector vaccines, and they have been around for decades. Some vaccines recently used for Ebola outbreaks have used viral vector technology. Studies are still being done to see if they can be used to help prevent infectious diseases such as Zika, influenza, and HIV.

Messenger RNA
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Messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA vaccines, are a newer type of vaccine. This vaccine teaches our cells to make a protein that mimics the one on the surface of the virus. Once our body creates this protein, the immune system learns to recognize it as a target and gets ready to fight against the real virus when it comes along.

mRNA vaccine technology is currently being used to make some of the COVID-19 vaccines. They've also been studied against other diseases, such as Ebola and Zika.

While you may have heard that mRNA vaccines can alter a person’s DNA, they are not able to do this.

Planning For
The Future

To help keep us protected over time, some vaccines may require a booster shot. This is an additional dose of a vaccine to “boost” your immunity against a virus.

Booster shots are needed for 2 reasons:
A person’s immunity after getting certain vaccines can lessen over time, but a booster shot can help strengthen your protection
Certain viruses, like the flu, are constantly changing and evolving. Vaccines may need to be updated from one season to the next to continue helping protect us from different versions of the virus, sometimes called variants

The guidelines for booster shots for COVID-19 continue to be updated, so it’s important to keep up with the latest news to see if you or your loved ones are eligible. You can also talk to your healthcare provider. If you do need a booster shot, there may be different vaccine options that you can choose from.

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Whether you’re getting your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster shot, you, along with your healthcare provider, have the freedom to choose the option that best fits your needs.