Vaccine Acronyms: Where to Look when You're Stumped

Terry Brenneman, MD

Vaccine shorthand can simplify or confuse. Test your knowledge of the alphabet soup and get valuable CDC links to help decode.

Acronyms have always been used in medicine and we have always faced the reality that the same group of letters can have more than one meaning. In the 20th century, if a pediatrician got some correspondence about a child with an ASD then he knew to be on the lookout for a child with a heart murmur from an atrial septal defect. Today, the first thing that pops into a pediatrician's head when he sees the acronym ASD is “autism spectrum disorder.” Acronyms can be very helpful in conveying information in a more compact form, but can also lead to confusion

Vaccine shorthand helps

Vaccine shorthand is a good example, though, of where acronyms actually reduce confusion. As new vaccines enter the market, they sometimes displace an older one. For example Prevnar 13 (PCV13) was introduced in 2010, replacing Prevnar (PCV7). For a time both vaccines were being administered in many offices as the old supply of the 7-valent Prevnar was being used up. If you are looking at a child's shot record and someone wrote in “Prevnar” in 2010, then some ambiguity exists as to which product the child actually received. If, instead, “PCV13” was recorded, then the child's immunization status is crystal clear.

CDC feels your pain

New vaccines continue to enter the marketplace that are not replacing an older vaccine and sometimes compete with another vaccine to prevent the same disease. A good example is the two vaccines against rotavirus. Rotateq (RV5) was licensed in 2006 and Rotarix (RV1) in 2008. Vaccines also disappear from the marketplace. LymeRix was removed from sale in 2002 and CervaRix, with two acronyms, HPV2 and 2vHPV, was removed in 2016. The CDC wisely decided that multiple acronyms for the same vaccine was confusing and potentially dangerous. You can find a published list of the approved acronyms at

Let's see how familiar you are with some of the vaccine acronyms and abbreviations.

Can you pair the vaccine in column A with the correct acronym from column B?

A. The VaccineB. Which acronym is right?
DaptacelTD  Td   Dtap   dTap  DTaP
InfanrixTD  Td   Dtap   dTap  DTaP
ZostervaxVAR  Zvax  ZOS  HZV
Menveo/MenactraMCV4  MenACWY  MPSV4  MenB
BoostrixTD  Td   Dtap   dTap  DTaP
HiberixHib  PRP-OMP  PRP-T  PRP- D
ActhibHib  PRP-OMP  PRP-T  PRP- D


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"58897","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media- image","id":"media_crop_8528512742834","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"- 1","media_crop_instance":"7453","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0 ","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 274px; width: 620px;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

A. The VaccineB. Which acronym or abbreviation is right?Answers
DaptacelTD  Td   Dtap   dTap  DTaPDTaP
InfanrixTD  Td   Dtap   dTap  DTaPDTaP
ZostervaxVAR  Zvax  ZOS  HZVHZV
Menveo, MenactraMCV4  MenACWY  MPSV4  MenBMCV4, MenACWY
BoostrixTD  Td   Dtap   dTap  DTaPdTap
HiberixHib  PRP- OMP  PRP-T  PRP-DHib, PRP- T
ActhibHib  PRP-OMP  PRP-T  PRP- DHib, PRP-T


Daptacel and Infanrix are both abbreviated “DTaP" even though they have different antigen components and concentrations. Neither are given after the age of 6 years.

 â–º Zostervax's acronym is HZV.

    - VAR stands for the varicella vaccine.

    - ZOS is an abbreviation for the HZV vaccine that has fallen out of use and should no longer be used.

 â–º Menveo's and Menactra's acronym can be either MCV4 or Men ACWY per the CDC guidelines.

    - MPSV4 refers to Menomune and MenB to Bexsero or Trumemba, both menningococcal B vaccines.

 â–º Any of the HIB vaccines can be abbreviated to Hib for simplicity's sake.

    - PedvaxHIB (liquid, 5-valent) made by Merck, does have a different administration schedule than the other two Hib vaccines, not needing a third dose at 6 months of age, and is better identified as PRP-OMP. PRP-T can be used for the other two Hib vaccines.

Names past, present, and foreign

We all at times have had to go through old hand written vaccine records trying to decipher acronyms no longer used in handwriting that is barely legible. The CDC has also published a list of old and non-standard abbreviations found in shot records found at

The fun really begins when you are presented a vaccine record in a foreign language. Two helpful sites in translating vaccines from multiple foreign languages using the standard and Crylllic alphabets are abbrev.html and

The opportunity for errors in vaccine administration has increased as the number of vaccines a child receives has exploded. You do not know what a child needs until you know what he has already received. Precision in communication among medical providers is essential. We all need to be on the same page. In this case we are talking about the CDC's page on approved vaccine acronyms.