Common Diseases and Their Vaccines

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Medically reviewed by Christina Cwynar, DNP, CPNP-PC, PMHNP-BC




Drawing of woman lying in a hospital bed erased and replaced with drawing of a syringe

Many formerly common diseases are now under control, thanks to vaccines. Let’s look at some of these diseases — and the vaccines that prevent them.

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Polio is caused by the poliovirus, and it can affect the spinal cord, causing paralysis.

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Up to 1 out of 10 of people with polio who are paralyzed die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.

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Polio is highly contagious, meaning it can easily spread from person to person.

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But it can be prevented with a vaccine that is given to children in 4 doses.

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Measles is also a highly contagious infection spread by a virus that can cause serious health problems, especially in young children.

About 1 in 5 people who get measles in the United States need to be hospitalized.

Drawing of a coughing person surrounded by 10 other people. 9 out of the 10 surrounding people start coughing, too

Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing. It’s so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around them will also get it.

Drawing of words “Measles-mumps-rubella” followed by “ MMR”

Drawing of syringe labeled “MMR” and the words mumps and rubella

Measles is prevented with the Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, also known as the MMR, which also protects against two other diseases as well — mumps and rubella.

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Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It’s known for causing puffy cheeks that come from having swollen glands.

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This disease is usually mild in kids, but can cause serious problems for adults.

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The third disease prevented by the MMR vaccine is rubella, which is also called the German measles.

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Rubella is also caused by a virus and is usually mild — but can cause a miscarriage or birth defects if a woman is infected during pregnancy.

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DTaP = diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis

Tdap = tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

Other common vaccines called DTaP and Tdap are used to prevent multiple diseases. They both cover diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis – but they are different doses because one is for babies and young children and the other is for older children, teens and adults.

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3+2 = 5 total doses for babies and children

Babies need three doses of the DTaP vaccine and young children need two DTaP booster shots.

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Older kids and adults get the Tdap vaccine to boost immunity.

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Diphtheria is a contagious infection caused by bacteria that can lead to trouble breathing, heart problems and even death.

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Another disease prevented by the DTaP and Tdap vaccines is tetanus. This bacterial infection produces a toxin in the body that causes painful muscle contractions.

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Tetanus is also called “lockjaw” because it often causes the neck and jaw muscles to tighten, making it hard to open your mouth or swallow.

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Tetanus can cause serious health problems and, even, death. Up to 2 in 10 people with tetanus will die.

Drawing of words Pertussis also known as whooping cough erased and then drawing of a person coughing

Pertussis is the third disease prevented by the DTaP and Tdap vaccines.

Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria.

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It can affect people of all ages but is most dangerous for babies.

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The final vaccine-preventable disease we’re going to look at today is rotavirus, which is very contagious and often affects babies and young children.

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Rotavirus is serious and can lead to both hospitalization and death.

Drawing of words RotaTeq and Rotarix

There are two vaccines available in the U.S. that help prevent rotavirus. They’re called RotaTeq and Rotarix.

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Both rotavirus vaccines are given to babies in two or three oral doses.

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The most important thing to remember about all of these diseases is that, while they are under control, they haven’t gone away.

But 51 million deaths can be prevented through immunization between 2021 and 2030.

Drawing of a smiling pharmacist behind a counter with a sign reading “Vaccines available here” on it

Vaccines are one of the safest and easiest ways to protect yourself and your family.

In addition to a healthcare provider’s office, many vaccines are available at your local pharmacy or public health department.

Talk to your provider about what vaccines you need to be up to date!

For more information, please visit

This resource was created with support from Merck.