The ability of the immune system to sense pathogens and how they can be targeted specifically needs to be tightly coordinated in space and over time. ‘Making memories’ considers how the immune response develops following exposure to a virus. To make effective memory, the immune response needs to be induced correctly or ‘primed’ during the initial stages of an infection. The first step is for the immune system to develop a response relating to the activation of the innate immune system. Without this, the adaptive response is often subsequently overwhelmed. The mechanics of memory formation and how this is then harnessed in current vaccines are described.