Immunisation Scotland - Glossary of Terms


Abnormal Cells

[ab-nor-mul sels]
Abnormal cells are the basic building blocks of the tissue in your body that have changed or been damaged.

Acellular pertussis vaccine

[ey-sel-yuh-ler per-tuhs-is vak-seen]
Whooping cough vaccine containing only parts of pertussis bacterial cells which can produce immunity in the person receiving the vaccine.


An abnormal reaction of the body which most commonly results in a runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, skin rash or diarrhea.

Anaphylactic reaction

[an-uh-fer-lak-tik] [ree-ak-shun]
An immediate and severe allergic reaction, which needs urgent medical attention.


Substances that fight off infection and disease.

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Another dose of a vaccine given after the first dose to increase the effectiveness of the immunisation.

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The cervix is the entrance at the lower end of the womb that connects the womb with the vagina.

Cervical cancer

[ser-vik-ul kan-suh]
Cervical cancer is a cancer found in the entrance of the womb. Cancer is caused by the body's cells becoming abnormal and start reproducing in an uncontrollable way. These cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissue.

Cervical screening

[ser-vik-ul skree-ning]
During a cervical screening test (commonly known as a smear test), a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix is taken and examined for abnormalities, which can then be treated if necessary.

Clinical trials

[klin-i-kul try-yuls]
Clinical trials are research studies to test new types of vaccines and medicines on patients before they are made widely available.

Congenital Rubella Syndrome

[kon-jen-i-tul roo-bel-uh sin-drohm/-drum]
A disease caused by a virus which can damage baby’s sight, hearing, heart and brain.


Consent is a formal term for giving permission or agreeing to something.


Factors that indicate that a certain procedure or treatment should not be carried out.

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An impairment of the normal state of a part (or parts) of the body that interrupts or changes the performance of the vital functions.

DTaP/IPV vaccine

[dee-tap aye-pee-vee vak-seen]
Combined vaccine that protect against four different diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. They contain a cellular pertussis vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine It is offered to young children aged three years to four months to five years as a pre-school immunisation.

dTaP/IPV vaccine

[dee-tap aye-pee-vee vak-seen]
Combined vaccine that protect against four different diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. It contains low-dose diphtheria vaccine, acellular pertussis vaccine and inactivate polio vaccine. It is an alternative to the DTap/IPV vaccine that is given to pre-school children aged three years four months to five years.

DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB vaccine

[dee-tap aye-pee-vee hib hep-bee vak-seen]
A combined vaccine that protects against five different diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B. It contains a cellular pertussis vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine. It is given to babies at two, three and four months of age.

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Swelling of the brain.

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An abnormal high body temperature.


Space between the bones at the top of the baby’s skull.

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General practice

[jen-uh-rul prak-tiss]
General practice refers to where doctors known as general practitioners (GPs) work. Usually a small group of GPs work together in a practice, which might be called a surgery, clinic or health centre, to care for NHS patients in the local community.

Genital warts

[jen-i-tul worts]
Warts are small rough lumps on the skin. Genital warts are warts found on the sexual organs and around the rectum. The skin cells in warts release thousands of viruses, so close skin-to-skin contact can pass on the infection.

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Health board

[helth bord]
Health services in Scotland are delivered through 14 regional health boards. They are responsible for providing and managing a whole range of NHS services in an area including hospitals and general practices.

Health Visitor

[helth viz-i-tuh]
A nurse who visits people in their homes and give help and advice on health and social welfare, especially to mothers of preschool children, people with a disability, and elderly people.

Herd immunity

[herd imm-yoon-uh-tee]
This is when a large enough percentage of people are immunised against an infection, then it is more difficult for it to be spread to those who are not immunised.

Hib/MenC vaccine

[hib men-see vak-seen]
A combined vaccine that protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) infections and meningococcal C (MenC) infections.


HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus, a common virus that can cause cervical cancer and less serious conditions like genital warts.

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Immune system

[imm-yoon sis-tum]
The immune system is your body's defence system, which helps protect it from disease, bacteria and viruses.


Immunisation is the act of giving a vaccine, usually by injection, to encourage your body's immune system to produce antibodies that will fight off a virus or bacteria. It may also be referred to as vaccination.


Immunity is the response generated by the body to defend itself against infection and other damaging hazards. Immunisation encourages your body’s immune system to develop antibodies one of the cornerstones of the immune response.


The absence of the normal immune response because of disease, the administration of drugs, or surgery.

Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)

[in-ak-tuh-vay-tid poh-lee-oh vak-seen] [aye-pee-vee]
Polio vaccine made from viruses that have been killed.


The invasion of the body by a pathogen such as a bacterium, fungus, or virus.

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Jab is an informal term for injection.

Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)

[joynt kuh-mi-tee on vak-sin-ay-shun and imm-yer-naye-zay-shun] [jay-see-vee-aye]
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is an independent expert advisory committee of the United Kingdom Department of Health.

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MenC vaccine

[men-see vak-seen]
A vaccine that protects against meningococcal C infections.

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An antibiotic put into vaccines to prevent contamination by bacteria.

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A person licensed to prepare and dispense drugs and medicines.

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)

[noo-muh-kok-uh l kon-ju-gayt vak-seen] [pee-see-vee]
A vaccine that protects against infections caused by seven types of pneumococcal bacteria.

Polymyxin B

[pol-ee-mik-sin bee]
An antibiotic put into vaccines to prevent contamination by bacteria.

Practice Nurse

[prak-tiss nerss]
A nurse based at a general practice surgery.

Pre-cancerous cells

[pree kan-suh-russ sels]
Pre-cancerous cells are tissue cells in the body that are slightly abnormal and could develop into cancer if left untreated.

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Blood poisoning

Side effects

[sayed e-feks]
Side effects are health problems that a few people might develop as a result of taking a medicine or having a vaccine.


An antibiotic put into vaccines to prevent contamination by bacteria.

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Td/IPV vaccine

[tee-dee aye-pee-vee vak-seen]
A combined vaccine that protects against three different diseases – tetanus, diphtheria, and polio. It contains tetanus vaccine, low-dose diphtheria vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine. It is given to young people aged 13 to 18 years, to top up their levels of protection against the three diseases.


Thiomersal is a mercury-based preservative that has been used in vaccines for more than 60 years. Thiomersal is not used in the vaccines in the UK routine vaccination programme.


An inactivated bacterial toxin that stimulates an immune response when used in a vaccine.

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Vaccines are made to stimulate your immune system to make antibodies that fight off a germ-causing disease without you having to become infected with the actual germ. A vaccine is made up of several different substances and components. Most vaccines need to include additives, to help improve their effectiveness and to increase their shelf life. You may need to be given a vaccine more than once to maintain the level of antibodies in your body – this top-up vaccine is called a booster.

Viral Meningitis

[vaye-ral men-in-jaye-tis]
Infection of the lining of the brain


A virus is a small germ that can cause an infection. Different viruses can be passed between people in different ways.

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World Health Organization (WHO)

[werld helth or-guh-naye-zay-shun] [dubel-yoo haytsh oh]
The World Health Organization is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.

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Phone the free NHS inform helpline for impartial advice and information
Textphone (18001 0800 22 44 88)
8.00am-10.00pm 7 days a week

Last reviewed on 02 October 2017

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