Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sat Mar 31 15:21:56 UTC 2007

Two nights ago, the network news reported a medical breakthrough: "vaccination" against prostate cancer.  However, the new "vaccine" is administered only to sufferers from metastasized prostate cancer, and the hoped-for result is some degree of remission.

I had always thought of a vaccination as a PREVENTIVE regimen; certainly that is the traditional, Pasteurized sense.  It is hard to tell from the OED whether the terms "vaccinate," "vaccination," and "vaccine" have been used in reference to the TREATMENT of diseases in their advanced states (the OED's entries for the terms circularly employ each other!).

A "draft addition" to the OED entry for "vaccine" gives the term as applied (since the 1980s) to computer programs that both prevent viral infections and remove viruses from afflicted machines. I wonder if that widespread use of "vaccine" and its cognates has broadened the medical application of the terms?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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