Vaccinations

Vaccinations can protect you effectively against some infectious diseases. Here you can find out what vaccinations are available and how they work. The vaccination calendar also provides a comprehensive overview of when vaccinations are due and at what intervals.

What vaccinations do you need?

Some vaccinations, the so-called standard vaccinations, should be carried out by everyone who has not already had the disease or cannot be vaccinated for health reasons. In many cases, they protect not only the individual but also people in the environment who are particularly at risk or cannot be vaccinated.

Certain professional groups, older people, people with previous illnesses, and pregnant women, need special protection. They often become more seriously ill with certain infections or have a higher risk of disease. That’s why doctors advise them to get vaccinations that other people don’t necessarily need. Doctors speak of an indication vaccination.

Which vaccination you should have when can be found in the vaccination calendar, based on the recommendations of the Standing Vaccination Commission.

Vaccination calendar
The Standing Vaccination Commission recommends for children, adults, and seniors.
Whooping cough, chickenpox, measles, diphtheria: which vaccinations does health insurance pay for?

Vaccinations from A to Z: Which ones are there?

There are several vaccinations against infectious diseases. Some are recommended for everyone, some for special risk groups, and others for specific trips. In the following list, you can find out which vaccinations are available.

Flu vaccination: who is it important for?

Chronically ill

Some chronically ill people fear overloading their weakened bodies with a flu shot. But the flu can be dangerous for them. That is why the Standing Vaccination Commission recommends that all heart patients, people with diabetes, and people with chronic kidney or liver diseases be vaccinated. Cancer patients should be vaccinated no earlier than three months after chemotherapy.

Asthma, COPD & Co.

For people with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD, as well as cystic fibrosis, another advantage of the vaccination is that the infection does not additionally burden the already irritated respiratory tract. In addition, the lungs of these patients are poorly ventilated, which promotes pneumonia from the outset. Influenza viruses can make it even easier for the causative agents of pneumonia.

Immunodeficiency and HIV

Pathogens of all kinds become dangerous to people with a weak immune system. The immune deficiency can be congenital or acquired diseases such as HIV. Even if the infection can be easily controlled with medication, HIV-infected people should be vaccinated against influenza. This also applies to people whose immune system is deliberately suppressed by medication – for example, after a stem cell or organ transplant.

Autoimmune diseases

Patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatism, Crohn’s disease, or multiple sclerosis often receive so-called immunosuppressants. Special rules apply to them when vaccinating because the vaccination can harm the course of the disease. Therefore, the risks and benefits of the flu vaccination must be carefully weighed for them.

Pregnant women

Many people don’t know that the immune system shuts down its activity during pregnancy. This prevents the immune cells from attacking the unborn child. Because even if it has half of its genetic material from its mother, it is a stranger in the body for the immune cells. Pregnant women, therefore, get the flu more quickly and severely. And the child can also be harmed. The vaccination recommendation against influenza is consequently also aimed at expectant mothers.

Kinder

Flu vaccination can also be helpful for healthy children. There is no STIKO recommendation for them yet, but many experts still recommend it. The flu vaccination is exceptionally reliable for them, thanks to their youthful immune system. In addition, children usually have many contacts and are therefore more likely to be infected. Secondly, vaccinated children cannot infect other people who are dangerous to the virus – this includes grandma and grandpa!

Senior citizens

In old age, muscle strength decreases, and the immune system. Therefore, older people are more likely to get the flu, and then more seriously. People over the age of 60 should therefore be vaccinated. This is recommended by the Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute. Seniors are also advised to have a one-time vaccination against pneumococci – common causes of pneumonia.

Relatives and caregivers

Even if they are not at high risk of complications, people with relatives who the flu could threaten should get vaccinated. To protect their loved ones. The same applies to everyone dealing professionally with people at risk – in older people’s homes or infirmaries. As people who have contact with many changing people and are therefore also exposed to many viruses, they naturally benefit themselves.

Vulnerable occupational groups

In addition to the nursing and medical professions, STIKO recommends flu vaccination to other professional groups with an increased risk of infection or personal contact. These include police officers, teachers, bus drivers, and cashiers. Anyone who does not belong to any of the groups mentioned, but would like to be vaccinated, can discuss payment of the vaccination costs with their health insurance company.

Current: Corona vaccinations - all the important answers

During the most extensive vaccination campaign of all time, people are still asking many questions: How effective are the vaccines, and what are the known side effects? How well do they protect against the Delta variant? And why is the second vaccination so important? The extensive NetDoktor dossier on corona vaccinations provides you with all the essential answers and current developments. Read now!

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Children: What vaccinations does my child need?

Newborns receive immune protection against many infectious diseases from their mothers. But he loses himself in the first few weeks. However, because small children can also become seriously ill with an infectious disease, the experts recommend the first vaccinations early. You can find out what these are, at what intervals, and in what month or year of life you should be vaccinated in the vaccination calendar.

Read here why vaccinations make sense for children and which vaccinations are recommended at which age!

Pregnancy: Which vaccinations are important now?

Various vaccinations are essential if you are pregnant or planning to have a child. This protects you from diseases that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing severely. By getting vaccinated in time, you also protect your child from harm. You can read here which vaccinations are advisable and permitted during pregnancy.

Some vaccinations for the mother also protect the child. Which vaccinations are essential – and which ones should only be carried out in an emergency?

How to vaccinate

As a rule, the doctor inoculates the upper arm muscle (deltoid muscle) with an injection. Pediatricians like to choose a thigh muscle (musculus vastus lateralis) in infants and young children. Inoculations into the muscle (intramuscularly) are standard for live and inactivated vaccines.

However, some live vaccines can also be taken orally and swallowed. These oral vaccinations are available against rotavirus or typhoid, for example. There is also a live vaccine against the “real” flu that can be taken in through the nose. This nasal vaccination is an excellent alternative to the classic injection, especially for children.

How do vaccinations work?

The classic vaccinations are so-called active immunizations. For this purpose, the doctor injects weakened ( live vaccine ) or killed pathogens or only specific components ( dead vaccines ). The body then forms antibodies and memory cells, thus building immune protection. This also works against the “real” germ and fights it as soon as it appears.

Active immunization is opposed to passive immunization. Doctors directly administer antibodies against a specific pathogen. They come, for example, from people who have already gone through the disease. The antibodies provide first aid to defend against an acute infection: They help immediately if someone is already infected. However, passive vaccination does not cause long-term immune protection to build up.

This is called simultaneous vaccination if the doctor administers a passive and an active vaccination simultaneously. The active part only makes sense with inactivated vaccines since passive immunization would significantly weaken the effect of live vaccinations.

When vaccinated, either a live vaccine or an inactivated vaccine is administered. You can find out what this means here!
Active or passive immunization? And what is simultaneous vaccination? Technical terms related to the small prick.
The immune system protects the body from viruses and the like. How does the immune system work? What is part of the immune system? Read that here!

Vaccination intervals: what do you have to consider?

Many vaccines can be given at the same time. This can even increase the immune response. That is why the most important ones are offered as combined preparations.

However, if live vaccines are not given simultaneously, there must be certain intervals between the individual vaccinations (at least four weeks each) to develop the respective immune protection. If such vaccinations are too close together, the vaccination protection is weaker. Orally administered live vaccines, so-called oral vaccinations, are an exception. When vaccinating with inactivated vaccines, there is no time interval between the vaccinations.

Exceptional cases are passive immunizations or therapeutic doses of immunoglobulin. The contained antibodies can also inactivate live vaccines. After a passive vaccination, doctors wait several months before administering a live vaccine. The exact interval depends on which antibodies (immunoglobulins) were given, what, and what form (intramuscular or intravenous).

Conversely, receiving immunoglobulins or passive immunization within two weeks of active live immunization can impair the build-up of vaccination protection. The vaccination may have to be repeated later.

Basic immunization, booster vaccination - when am I protected?

For some vaccinations, one or more vaccinations in childhood are enough to provide lifelong protection. For others, this primary immunization needs to be refreshed regularly throughout life. There is, therefore, a particular vaccination scheme that determines the number of vaccinations for the primary immunization and the necessity and timing of a booster vaccination.

An incomplete primary immunization can still be completed years later. Experts then speak of a catch-up vaccination. You usually don’t need to start all over again. You can also easily make up for a missed booster vaccination after a more extended period. However, the longer you wait, the higher the risk that you will no longer be adequately protected.

If you are unsure whether you have been vaccinated, you can have the primary immunization carried out in full. Even if you are unknowingly already vaccinated, there is no harm in getting an additional vaccination. Alternatively, the doctor can use a blood test to determine whether you are protected from some diseases. He decides on the so-called vaccination titer.

Herd immunity protects unvaccinated people from becoming infected. Read here about the benefits of herd protection through vaccination!
The vaccination titer indicates whether you have sufficient antibodies against a pathogen. Read more about the titer and its determination!

How are vaccines made?

The development and production of vaccines are expensive. The authorities place the highest demands on the safety of vaccinations. They will be approved only when they have proven effective and well-tolerated in several study phases. This also applies if the drug authorities conditionally approve vaccines in times of crisis – as recently in the coronavirus pandemic.

How are vaccines made? How is their security verified? Read everything you need to know about vaccines here!
Vaccines are not always available as usual. Read how doctors then proceed and who gets the remaining vaccines first.

Is vaccination dangerous?

Vaccination activates the immune system. Redness at the vaccination site or even fatigue and a slight fever are signs that the vaccination is working. However, some worry that vaccination may cause more harm to themselves or their children.

It is true: As with any effective medication, side effects can also occur with vaccinations. However, they can only be classified as complex in individual cases. The disease’s risk of permanent or fatal consequences is many times higher!

You can read more about the widespread fears about vaccination, allegations by vaccination critics, and how to assess them here.

Vaccinations prevent dangerous diseases. But some fear they will do more harm than good. What about the hypotheses?

Travel vaccinations: which vaccinations are necessary?

Especially for some long-distance trips, experts recommend getting vaccinated against common pathogens. Certain countries even have mandatory vaccinations. If you cannot prove this, you may be denied entry. Therefore, find out early – at least six weeks before the start of your trip – about the risk of infection and the necessary vaccinations at your destination.

If time is short, you can get some vaccinations on a shortened schedule, for example, before last-minute trips. However, these do not protect as effectively and for as long as timely vaccinations. Nevertheless, partial protection is better than none at all!

Exotic pathogens often lurk in distant countries. Protect yourself with these vaccines.

READ MORE ARTICLE ABOUT vaccinations

Scientific standards:

This text corresponds to the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines, and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.