Difference Between Antibiotics and Vaccines (With Table)

Antibiotics and Vaccine both work simultaneously to cure diseases in Medical procedures. The production of Antibiotics and Vaccines is microbial processing and it is beneficial in medical development.

Antibiotics vs Vaccines

The difference between Antibiotics and Vaccine is that both concoctions of health care which kills virus and bacteria but they have different approaches for fighting virus and bacteria. Vaccines are given to prevent the disease beforehand, whereas antibiotics are given only when someone is suffering from the disease.

The medicines which help in curing the infections caused by any bacteria are known antibiotics. Their role in living bodies is to stop the spreading of the infection. The term Antibiotics originates from Greek- ἀντι meaning anti and the word biotics from the word βίος meaning life.

The Biological substance which works in the immune system against a virus is known as Vaccine. Vaccines help the immune system to create specialized, Y-shaped proteins called antibodies which build immunity in the body to fight the virus. The term comes from the Latin word “Vacca” meaning Cow.

Comparison Table Between Antibiotics and Vaccines

Parameters of ComparisonAntibiotics Vaccine
Definition/ Function
Antibiotics cure diseases or infections caused by any bacteria. Their role is to stop the spreading of the infection furthermore.

The Biological substance which works in the immune system against a or virus is known as Vaccine.
There are 2 types of antibiotics based on the action of antibiotics- bacteriostatic and bactericidal.

There are 5 types of vaccines- Vaccines made from Live viruses, Inactivated toxins, subunit  and conjugate vaccine.
Terminology/ Origin of the Term
The term Antibiotics originates from Greek. ἀντι meaning “anti” and the word bio-tics comes from the word “βίος” meaning life.

The term comes from the Latin word “Vacca” meaning Cow.
The first antibiotic was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928.

The first vaccine was discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796.
Antibiotics are made from natural or synthetic substances.

Vaccines are made from the virus itself it is supposed to fight.

What is Antibiotics?

Antibiotics help in stopping the growth and spreading of bacteria and treats bacterial infections.

The first effective antibiotic was discovered by Alexander Fleming, which was a case of an accident. Fleming has returned from a holiday, after which he noticed that one of his Petri-dish had mold growing. The active agent in the mold was penicillin which killed the staphylococci around it. Penicillin was the first proper antibiotic.

Based on the action of Antibiotics they can be differentiated into 2 types- bacteriostatic and bactericidal. The work of bacteriostatic antibiotics is to prevent the bacteria from multiplying. The bacteriostatic agents prevent the bacteria from reproducing, by penetrating into the bacterial protein production, DNA replication, and other function of the bacteria. The bacteriostatic agent work in coordination with the immune system to stop bacterial growth.

Bactericidal antibiotics target killing on the bacteria altogether. These antibiotics work on inhibiting cell wall synthesis. Bactericidal antibiotics however can kill 99% of the bacteria or even more than that. Bactericidal antibiotics are mostly used for cancer patients, in cases for low white blood cells(WBC)for curing infections with poor blood flow, where the host defense is impaired.

What is Vaccine?

The vaccine is a biological compound derived from usually inactivated or the dead virus it is supposed to protect from. Vaccines increase the immunity of the body when injected, as when the inactivated or dead virus is injected into the body, the immune system kills the virus and develops the strength and power to kill the virus anytime it enters the body.

A live or unattenuated virus is injected through a series of cell cultures or animal embryos, the virus loses the ability to multiply, and then is used as a vaccine.

The inactivated vaccine is made from inactivated virus whose ability to multiply is destroyed and is put into the vaccine so that the immune system can recognize it.

Toxoid Vaccines are made from the toxic substance extracted from the virus which causes the disease so that the immune system can create antibodies to the toxic parts of the virus.

Subunit vaccine is the vaccine where a specific protein is taken from the virus and presented as the antigen of the virus.

A combination of weak and strong antigens is incorporated into the conjugate vaccine for the immune system to respond to the virus.

Main Differences Between Antibiotics and Vaccine

  1. Antibiotics are used to treat diseases or infections caused by bacteria, whereas Vaccine is used for treating diseases caused by the virus. 
  2. Antibiotics have developed resistance which is very harmful as the bacteria have developed resistance against the antibiotics, whereas vaccines give lifelong protection from the virus. Resistance in vaccines is very rare occurring.
  3. Antibiotics are mostly given in tablets or medicinal form, whereas for Vaccines, it is given by using injections.
  4. There are 2 types of antibiotics based on the action of the antibiotics, and there are 5 types of vaccines based on the status of the virus they are made from.
  5. Both antibiotics and vaccines may have different side effects. The side effects of taking antibiotics might be a headache, diarrhea whereas vaccines may have allergic side effects.
  6. The main difference between Antibiotics and Vaccines is that antibiotics do not contain the bacteria they are supposed to fight, But in the case of vaccines, they contain the virus in a weaker form.
  7. Some of the examples of antibiotics are – Penicillins, Cephalosporins Tetracyclines, and some of the examples of vaccines.


In conclusion, both Antibiotics and vaccines are necessary depending on the disease. Both of them may have their own side effects like antibiotics may cause headache, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and for vaccines, the side effects may be like fatigue and body pain or some topical allergic reaction.

Antibiotics are prescribed only when the patient is suffering from a bacterial infection but vaccines are given for future protection from the virus. Both play a very important role in medical history. Generally, Vaccines are more effective in curing the disease. Almost all bacteria have adapted resistance against their antibiotics, but resistance against vaccines is a very rare occurrence.


  1. https://journals.asm.org/doi/full/10.1128/CDLI.6.6.832-837.1999
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0032579119473045
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