“From the age of 60 we should be vaccinated against shingles or flu”
Hendrik Streeck knows that what happened during the coronavirus pandemic did not necessarily increase confidence in vaccination. Still, they are important. A WELT TV virologist and expert answers the most important questions about vaccination, revaccination and vaccination of children.
GSexually transmitted diseases, heart attacks, dementia – every Friday at 17:40 Professor Dr. Hendrik Streeck from the University Hospital Bonn and WELT presenter Franca Lehfeldt on medical questions and phenomena suitable for everyday use on WELT-TV. This time it’s about vaccinations.
WORLD: The topic of vaccination accompanies us. How does vaccination actually work?
Hendrik Streeck: Vaccination tricks the body into thinking it is infected. Immune system cells sound the alarm, antibodies, B cell responses, and T cell responses are formed, and symptoms may occur, including exhaustion, fever, and chills. Since there is no pathogen, the symptoms disappear relatively quickly. The memory of this reaction remains, meaning that immune responses are kept to a lesser number. Then, when an actual infection occurs, these immune responses are revived. Even then, there may be mild symptoms, depending on the disease.
WORLD: Vaccine development is rapid for some infectious diseases, not for others. why is that?
Street: We have no vaccines against the world’s biggest infectious killers, including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. The reasons are very different, with HIV it is also due to the high diversity of viral strains and because HIV attacks one of the central players of the immune system. In tuberculosis, there is a layer of wax around the bacterium that, among other things, protects the bacterium from being well recognized by the immune system.
WORLD: For some pathogens, one vaccination lasts a lifetime, for others, like the flu, our immune system is evidently very forgetful.
Street: This is not because the immune memory is lost with the flu, but because we have so many different variants of the flu and some of them can combine in new ways. The vaccine is therefore recomposed every year. It is also determined by the structure of the genome. It is not a long strand like Corona, but many individual ones. In this way, flu viruses can exchange components with each other.
WORLD: In recent years, vaccinations have rarely been discussed as intensively as Corona. In the case of the flu, such discussions never took place. What is the difference?
Street: There are many reasons, but the pressure to vaccinate, which was created in society by politicians and individual actors and with the institution-related obligation to vaccinate, certainly played a role. Remember the 2G and 3G rules. This was not good because it did not necessarily contribute to confidence in vaccination in general. There was also a supposedly new method, mRNA vaccines. This worried many.
WORLD: What makes this vaccine different from others we have used so far?
Street: The concept of vaccination is very old, for example in Asia, people suffering from smallpox would scrape the pustules, dry them and then blow this powder into their noses. It was a kind of harbinger of vaccination. Edward Jenner administered the first smallpox vaccination in Europe. He took smallpox’s cousin, cowpox, and noticed that if you vaccinate with cowpox, you already get smallpox. Dead or weakened pathogens that are injected into the muscle are therefore classic forms of vaccination. Meanwhile, it also works with viral proteins because they are man-made surface proteins. The body’s reaction is always similar.
World: Well, not all vaccines last a lifetime, which vaccinations need to be renewed or even vaccinated in the second half of life?
Street: Especially when vaccinating children, it is worth taking another look at the vaccination certificate, for example for tetanus or whooping cough. We need regular booster shots. Some cohorts received too few measles vaccinations in childhood – there must be at least two. From the age of 60, we should be vaccinated against shingles or influenza, as recommended by the Permanent Vaccination Commission.
WELT HEALTH every Friday at 17:40 on WELT. The show is also in the media library after it airs
and TV application available. Watch last week’s episode on heart health here: