Common diseases and their vaccines

Common diseases and their vaccines

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




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

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

Drawing of the word “Polio” erased and replaced by a drawing of a skeleton and an arrow pointing to the spine

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

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Up to 1 in 10 of paralyzed people with polio 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.

Drawing of a mother holding a baby on her lap while a nurse gives him an injection in his upper thigh

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

Drawing of the word “Measles” crossed out and replaced by a child in a hospital bed

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 must be hospitalized.

Drawing of a coughing person surrounded by 10 other people. 9 of the 10 surrounding people also start coughing

Measles is transmitted through coughs and sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around them will also get it.

Drawing of the words “Measles-Mumps-Rubella” followed by “MMR”

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

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

Drawing of the word “mumps” erased and replaced by a drawing of a child with puffy cheeks and a thermometer in his mouth

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It is known to cause puffy cheeks which result from having swollen glands.

Drawing of an adult in the hospital bed

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

Drawing of the words “Rubella also known as German measles”

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

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Rubella is also caused by a virus and is usually mild, but it can cause a miscarriage or birth defects if a woman becomes infected while pregnant.

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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. Both cover diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, but they are different doses because one is for infants and toddlers and the other is for older children, adolescents and adults.

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3+2 = 5 total doses for infants and children

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

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Older children and adults are given the Tdap vaccine to boost immunity.

Drawing of the word “Diphtheria”

Diphtheria is a contagious infection caused by bacteria that can cause breathing difficulties, heart problems and even death.

Drawing of the word Tetanus

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

Drawing of the person’s head in profile with the arrow pointing to the jaw

Tetanus is also called “lockjaw” because it often causes the muscles in the neck and jaw to tighten, making it difficult to open the 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 DTaP and Tdap vaccines.

Also known as whooping cough, whooping cough 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 children.

Drawing of the word Rotavirus

The last vaccine-preventable disease we will look at today is rotavirus, which is highly contagious and often affects infants and young children.

  • Drawing of child in hospital bed connected to drip

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

Drawing of the words RotaTeq and Rotarix

There are two vaccines available in the United States that help prevent rotavirus. They are called RotaTeq and Rotarix.

Drawing of a woman holding the baby in her arms while the nurse puts the drops in the baby’s mouth

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

Word drawing 51,000,000

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

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

Drawing of a smiling pharmacist behind a counter holding a “Vaccines Available Here” sign.

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

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

Talk to your provider about which vaccines you need to stay up to date!

For more information, visit

This resource was created with support from Merck.