live, attenuated vaccines

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Live vaccines consist of viable micro-organisms of attenuated virulence. The replication of these organisms within the body, provides a powerful stimulus to the immune system, without causing a significant illness in immune-competent individuals. Effective immunity therefore often follows a single dose.

Live, attenuated vaccines licensed in the UK include prior to 2013:

  • measles, mumps and rubella
  • BCG
  • poliomyelitis - oral Sabin vaccine
  • yellow fever

Oral typohid is a live vaccine but only available in the US and Australia.

Previously the list of live vaccines in the UK was usefully remembered with mnemonic MMR BOY, where the O stands for oral polio.

However now other live vaccines are used in the UK:

  • herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine
  • live attenuated intranasal influenza vaccine - Fluenz


  • Levin MJ et al.Varicella-zoster virus-specific immune responses in elderly recipients of a herpes zoster vaccine. J Infect Dis. 2008 Mar 15;197(6):825-35
  • Immunisation Against Infectious Disease - "The Green Book". Chapter 19. Influenza (September 2013)

Last reviewed 01/2018