Vaccination terminology: a revised glossary of key terms including lay person's definitions

Orlaith C. Brennan, John E. Moore, Peter J. A. Moore, Beverley C. Millar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What is known and objective: There has been a paucity of vaccine and vaccine-related definitions within the scientific and medical peer-reviewed literature, particularly with the arrival of COVID-19. Therefore, it was the aim of this commentary to collate definitions to 44 vaccine- and vaccinology-related key terms, from four international and respected sources of information (where available), including (i) the World Health Organisation (WHO), (ii) the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (iii) The Department of Health, Government of Australia and (iv) the European Union. In addition, it was a further aim to develop a lay person's definition to each of these 44 key terms, to act as a published and citeable reference point for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, when communicating with patients and other public-facing stakeholders.

Comment: Definitions are important in health care in order to (i) provide concise insight on a specific topic, (ii) provide a common understanding and (iii) set reference points to allow the adoption of a standard uniform approach.

What is new and conclusion: The collation of definitions of key vaccine terms was compiled from four respected sources of information. A glossary of 44 key terms was produced to help pharmacists and other healthcare professionals explain such terms professionally, as well as to patient stakeholders in lay person's vocabulary. These lay definitions had superior readability metrics than definitions from any of the four professional sources, indicating their suitability for engagement with patient-facing stakeholders. Understanding the barriers to vaccine uptake is crucial for health professionals and policymakers to achieve improved uptake rates. This commentary has aimed at adding value to healthcare professionals and patients, by providing an up-to-date glossary of several professional definitions, from respected sources, as well as an accompanying lay definition to support the healthcare professional-patient communicative interface. Vaccines have become an important preventative tool, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to help mitigate disease severity and to help control the pandemic locally, nationally and internationally. Accessible and robust definitions help inform the dialogue to achieve this goal and the avoidance of obscurum per obscurius.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-382
JournalJournal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics
Issue number3
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2022


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • COVID-19
  • vaccination
  • glossary
  • definitions
  • immunization
  • vaccine


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