Common Vaccine Abbreviations Explained

, Staff Writer
Updated March 26, 2021
Woman receiving an injection in her arm
    Woman receiving an injection in her arm
    Westend61 / Getty

Vaccines save lives and prevent the spread of illness. But, it can be daunting to see a list of random letters and abbreviations when considering vaccines for yourself or your children. Read through a list of vaccine abbreviations and meanings to stay educated about your health options.

Live-Attenuated Vaccines

When you receive a live-attenuated vaccine, you’re receiving a weakened version of a live germ, usually (but not always) the same illness against which the vaccine will provide protection. Some are viral vector vaccines, which means they use an altered version of a different virus to produce immunity against the target virus. The vaccine can’t make you sick with the disease. Instead, it teaches your body how to respond if you are exposed to the germ again. Some examples of live-attenuated vaccines include:

  • ACAM2000 - Vaccinia Vaccine (Smallpox)
  • Ad26.COV2.S - Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 (COVID-19 Vaccine)
  • AZD1222 - Oxford Astra Zeneca COVID-19 Vaccine (COVID-19)
  • BCG - Bacille Calmette-Guérin Vaccine (Tuberculosis)
  • CVD 103-HgR - Classical V. Cholerae O1 Inaba 569B Strain (Cholera)
  • EVD - Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola)
  • LAIV - Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine nasal spray)
  • LAIV4 - Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine nasal spray)
  • MMR - Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine
  • MMRV - Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (Chicken Pox) Vaccine
  • MR - Measles and Rubella Vaccine
  • RV1 - Monovalent Rotavirus Vaccine (Rotavirus)
  • RV5 - Pentavalent Rotavirus Vaccine (Rotavirus)
  • Ty21a - Live Oral Typhoid Vaccine (Typhoid)
  • VAR - Varicella Vaccine (Chicken Pox)
  • YF - Yellow Fever
  • ZVL - Zoster Vaccine Live (Shingles)


Inactivated Vaccines

If the germ in a vaccine is dead, it’s known as an inactivated vaccine. While these vaccines can be effective in the short term, they require booster shots during a patient’s lifetime for long-term protection. Here are some immunization abbreviations for common inactivated vaccines:

  • aIIV3 - Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • ccIIV3 - Cell-Culture Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (Cell-culture flu vaccine shot)
  • eIPV - Enhanced Inactivated Polio Vaccine (Polio)
  • HepA - Hepatitis A Vaccine
  • HDCV - Human Diploid Cell Vaccine (Rabies)
  • HD-IIV3 - Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • IPV - Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (Polio)
  • IIV - Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • IIV3 - Trivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • IIV4 - Quadrivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • JE - Japanese Encephalitis (JE virus)
  • JE-VC - Vero cell culture-derived Japanese encephalitis vaccine (JE virus)
  • ViCPS - Vi Capsular Polysaccharide Vaccine (Typhoid)


Subunit, Recombinant, Polysaccharide, and Conjugate Vaccines

Pieces of a germ, such as its sugar or protein, are the key ingredients of subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines. Like inactivated vaccines, they require booster shots to remain effective throughout a patient’s lifetime. Vaccines in this category include:

  • HepB - Hepatitis B Vaccine
  • Hib - Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib disease)
  • HPV2 - Human Papillomavirus, bivalent (HPV)
  • 2vHPV - Bivalent HPV vaccine
  • HPV4 - Human Papillomavirus vaccine, quadrivalent
  • 4vHPV - Quadrivalent HPV vaccine
  • 9vHPV - 9-valent HPV vaccine
  • MCV4 - Quadrivalent Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Meningococcal disease)
  • MenACWY-CRM - Quadrivalent Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Meningococcal disease; patients 2 months and older)
  • MenACWY-D - Quadrivalent Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Meningococcal disease; patients 9 months and older)
  • MenB - Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine (Meningococcal disease, type B)
  • MenB-FHbp - Serogroup B Meningococcal Factor H Binding Protein Vaccine (Meningococcal disease, type B)
  • MenB-4C - Multicomponent Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine (Meningococcal disease, type B)
  • MPSV4 - Quadrivalent Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (Meningococcal disease)
  • P - Pertussis Vaccine (Whooping Cough)
  • PCV13 - 13-valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Pneumococcal disease)
  • PPSV23 - 23-valent Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (Pneumococcal disease)
  • PRP-OMP - Polyribosylribitol Phosphate-Outer Membrane Protein Conjugate Vaccine (Hib disease)
  • PRP-T - Polyribosylribitol Phosphate-Tetanus Conjugate Vaccine (Hib disease)
  • RIV3 - Trivalent Recombinant Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • RIV4 - Quadrivalent Recombinant Influenza Vaccine (Flu vaccine shot)
  • RZV - Recombinant Zoster Vaccine (Shingles)


Toxoid Vaccine Abbreviations

When germs cause a disease, they create a product known as a toxin in the human body. These toxins can be used in vaccines to train a patient’s immune system to respond to the toxins in a disease rather than the whole germ. Here are abbreviations for common toxoid vaccines:

  • AVA - Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (Anthrax)
  • DT - Diphtheria and Tetanus Vaccine (for children)
  • DTaP - Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (Whooping Cough) vaccine (for children)
  • Td - Tetanus and Diphtheria Vaccine (for adults)
  • Tdap - Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Acellular Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Vaccine (for adults)

mRNA Vaccines

The use of messenger RNA (mRNA) in vaccines is a relatively new technology. These vaccines trigger the body to produce its own antibodies against the COVID-19 virus without having to inject any actual virus into a person. This technology has been tested in people before, but certain COVID-19 vaccines are the first mRNA vaccines to be commercially available.

  • BNT162b2 - Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (COVID-19)
  • mRNA-1273 - Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (COVID-19)

In February 2021, the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines listed were approved for use in the United States under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


COVID-19 Vaccines in U.S. Clinical Trials

Vaccines often undergo clinical trials to ensure they're safe for widespread use. In March 2021, there were two COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials in the United States. Upon completion of clinical trials, they will be evaluated by the FDA and considered for possible approval.

What is COVAX?

You may have seen the term COVAX in relation to COVID-19. This term is related to COVID-19 vaccines, but it is not an abbreviation for an actual vaccine. Instead, COVAX refers to a collaborative program focused on ensuring equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostic resources. In April of 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) joined forces with the European Commission and the country of France to launch COVAX. The COVAX connects public and private sector entities to work together toward global pandemic solutions.


Diseases Without Vaccines

Any disease that leaves survivors with lifetime immunity can be developed into a vaccine. Some world diseases could have effective vaccines on the market once scientists successfully develop and test them. These diseases include:

  • West Nile Virus
  • Zika Virus
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus
  • MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)
  • Lyme Disease

However, many diseases, such as HIV, do not fit this criterion because survivors do not have lifetime immunity. Malaria, Hepatitis C, and tuberculosis are examples of diseases that survive in patients’ bodies long after recovery, though low funding for their vaccines prevents widespread implementation. Cancer is another disease without a current vaccine, although vaccines for HPV can prevent cervical cancer.


Review More Medical Resources

If you’ve got more abbreviations to decipher on your medical chart, we’ve got more resources for you. Check out a list of common blood test abbreviations that you may see in your next medical results. Or, if you’re confused about your doctor’s instructions, read through a selection of prescription abbreviations to clear them up.