Medical Abbreviations and Acronyms for Vaccines

Doctor giving toddler girl a shot
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Vaccine records can be challenging to interpret when abbreviations or acronyms are used. Standard abbreviations are often similar to each other, so it might not be clear which immunization an acronym or abbreviation is referring to.

Understanding common vaccine abbreviations can help you make sure your immunizations and your child's immunizations are up-to-date, and it can also help you when filling out required forms.

Vaccine List

Common vaccines that you might see on your own or on your child's immunization record include:

  • DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine
  • DTaP-IPV: Diphtheria, tetanus, toxoids, acellular pertussis, inactivated poliovirus vaccine (Quadracel, Kinrix)
  • DTP: Diphteria, tetanus, and whole-cell pertussis vaccine
  • DT: Pediatric diphteria and tetanus vaccine, usually used for for kids too young to get a Td
  • HepA: Hepatitis A vaccine (Havrix and Vaqta)
  • HepB: Hepatitis B vaccine
  • HepB-IPV: Hepatitis B and inactivated poliovirus vaccine
  • Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type B conjugate vaccine
  • HPV: Human papillomavirus vaccine
  • HPV2: Bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix)
  • HPV4: Quadrivalent HPV vaccine
  • HPV9: Noavalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil)
  • IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
  • IIV: Inactivated influenza vaccine
  • IIV3: Inactivated influenza vaccine, trivalent
  • IIV4: Inactivated influenza vaccine, quadrivalent
  • LAIV: Live, attenuated flu vaccine such as FluMist
  • MenB: Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (Bexsero and Trumenba)
  • MMR: Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine
  • MMRV: Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine (ProQuad)
  • MCV4: Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra and Menveo)
  • MPSV4: Menningococcal polysaccaride vaccine (quadrivalent)
  • MPSV4: Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune)
  • OPV: Oral polio vaccine
  • PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar)
  • PCV7: Seven valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar 7)
  • PCV13: 13 valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar 13)
  • PPSV23: Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax 23)
  • Rota: Rotavirus vaccine
  • RV: Rotavirus vaccine
  • RV1: Monovalent rotavirus vaccine (Rotarix)
  • RV5: Pentavalent rotavirus vaccine (RotaTeq)
  • TIV: Trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (a flu shot)
  • Tdap: Tetanus, diphtheria toxoids, and acellular pertussis vaccine (Boostrix and Adacel)
  • Td: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, used as a tetanus booster shot
  • VAR: Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine (Varivax)

Other Abbreviations

The method of administration or the site on the body where a vaccine is given to a child is often abbreviated in the medical records.

Routes of vaccine administration:

  • IM: Intramuscular injection, which usually uses a needle placed in a large muscle, such as in the thigh or upper arm.
  • Sub Q, SQ or SC: Subcutaneous injection, which is a superficial injection in which the needle is injected in an angled or almost horizontal position, just beneath the skin.
  • PO: A vaccine that is given orally, by mouth.
  • IN: Intranasally, an uncommon type of vaccine administration route.

Common locations for vaccine injections can include:

  • RA (right arm)
  • LA (left arm)
  • RT (right thigh)
  • LT (left thigh)

Other Definitions

There are also a few terms that are commonly used in vaccination records.

  • Live-attenuated vaccines: These are vaccines produced from a harmful infectious agent that is weakened. These vaccinations can provide lasting immunity, but they may be unsafe if you have a weakened immune system.
  • Inactivated vaccines: Vaccines produced by an inactivated version of the infection-producing microorganism.
  • Conjugate vaccines: These vaccines use a part of the infectious agent, which can be derived from the microorganism, or artificially produced, to elicit the immune response against the organism.
  • Toxoid vaccines: These vaccines use parts of the harmful toxin that is produced by a microorganism, rather than the microorganism itself, to create immunity against the harmful toxin. This is used with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines.
  • Bivalent vaccines: A bivalent vaccine targets against two strains of a microorganism, a quadravalent against four strains, and a noavalent against nine strains.
  • Herd Immunity: This describes the concept that a disease is less prevalent, and therefore less likely to spread when more people are vaccinated. People who have a weak immune system, such as people who are being treated for cancer, who have certain types of blood cancers, premature babies, and individuals with conditions such as HIV, are more likely to catch an infectious disease even if they have been immunized.
  • Side effects: A side effect is an event that may occur after exposure to any medical treatment, such as a vaccine. Common side effects include pain at the injection site, redness, soreness, and a sense of feeling "run down."
  • Adverse event: An adverse event is a bad outcome after medical treatment. Generally, adverse events are not as common as side effects and can be more severe. An allergy to immunization would be considered an adverse event.

Vaccination Records

Proof of vaccination is sometimes needed for going to school, traveling abroad, or starting a new job. Most vaccination or immunization record forms contain several columns that include:

  • Specific type of vaccination: Some diseases that are vaccinated against come in different formulations. An example is the measles vaccine, which is included in MMR and MMRV shots. This column is where you will see the abbreviations listed below.
  • Date given: The month, date, and year the vaccine was administered.
  • Route and site: How the vaccine was administered, such as intramuscular, intranasal, or oral, and the location, such as right arm or left thigh.
  • Lot number and manufacture: This is tracked in case there is a problem with the vaccine.
  • Vaccine information statement: The date the vaccine was manufactured and the date the vaccine was administered.
  • Vaccinator: Signature of the person who administered the vaccine, usually a nurse.

There is no national database that tracks vaccination records, although some states do have voluntary registries. If you misplace your vaccination history, you can check with past and present healthcare providers or school record departments, although forms may only be available for a limited amount of years.

If you cannot find proof of vaccination, your doctor may take blood samples to test for immunization titers for certain diseases and you may need to be revaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention getting an additional dose of vaccine is not ideal, however, it is still safe.

A Word From Verywell

Immunizations are considered one of the greatest breakthroughs in medical science, preventing a number of deadly diseases and controlling dangerous epidemics. They are considered safe, and if you have any concerns, you should try to learn as much as you can about vaccines and their history.

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