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Assessing the immunologic response to vaccination

Ricardo U Sorensen, MD
Kenneth Paris, MD, MPH
Section Editor
E Richard Stiehm, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna M Feldweg, MD


The evaluation of a patient's immune response to specific vaccinations serves as a correlate to his/her ability to fight natural infections and is essential in the assessment of the humoral immune system.

This topic review will describe normal immunologic responses to vaccinations, patterns of abnormal responses, and methods for assessing these responses. More general evaluation of the immune system, including measurement of antibody levels and functional assessments of different immune cells, is presented elsewhere. (See "Laboratory evaluation of the immune system" and "Primary humoral immunodeficiencies: An overview".)


The clinical indications for assessing vaccine responsiveness include frequent and recurrent sinopulmonary or otic infections, chronic gastrointestinal infections, any severe or unusual infections, and abnormal need for antibiotics (table 1).

In 2012, a working group of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology published recommendations on the interpretation of vaccine responses in the evaluation of patients with possible immunodeficiency [1]. The material in this review is consistent with those recommendations.

Evaluation of primary immunodeficiency — Vaccine responsiveness is central to the diagnosis of several primary immunodeficiencies, including (but not limited to):


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jun 8, 2015.
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