“From the age of 60 we should be vaccinated against shingles or flu”
Hendrik Streeck knows that what happened during the corona pandemic did not necessarily increase confidence in vaccinations. Nevertheless, they are important. The virologist and WELT TV expert answers the most important questions about vaccinations, booster vaccinations and vaccinations for children.
GSTDs, heart attacks, dementia – every Friday at 5:40 p.m., Professor Dr. Hendrik Streeck from the Bonn University Hospital 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 subject of vaccination accompanies us. How does vaccination actually work?
Henrik Streeck: Vaccination fools the body into thinking it is infected. The cells of the immune system sound the alarm, antibodies, B cell responses and T cell responses are formed and symptoms can occur, sometimes even exhaustion, Fever and chills. Since there is no pathogen, the symptoms disappear relatively quickly. A memory of this reaction remains, which means that the immune responses are sustained in smaller numbers. Then, when an actual infection does occur, these immune responses are revived. Even then, there may be mild symptoms, depending on which disease it is.
WORLD: For some infectious diseases vaccine development is fast, but not for others. Why is that?
stretch: We don’t have vaccines against the world’s biggest infectious killers, that counts malaria, tuberculosis or HIV. There are very different reasons for this, with HIV it is also due to the high diversity of the virus strains and because HIV attacks one of the central players in the immune system. In tuberculosis, there is a layer of wax around the bacterium, which protects the bacterium from being well recognized by the immune system, among other things.
WORLD: For some pathogens, one vaccination lasts a lifetime, for others like that flu our immune system is apparently very forgetful.
stretch: It’s not because the immune memory is lost with the flu, but because we have so many different flu variants and some of them can combine in new ways. The vaccine is therefore recomposed every year. This is also due to the structure of the genome. It’s not a long strand like Corona, but many individual ones. In this way, the flu viruses can exchange components with each other.
WORLD: Vaccination has rarely been discussed as intensively as Corona has been in recent years. In the case of flu, there were never discussions like this. What’s the difference?
stretch: There are many reasons for this, but the pressure to vaccinate that was built up in society by politicians and individual actors and the institution-related obligation to vaccinate certainly played a role. Remember 2G and 3G rules. This was not good as it did not necessarily contribute to confidence in vaccinations in general. There was also a supposedly new method, the mRNA vaccines. This worried many.
WORLD: What distinguishes this vaccine from others that we have used so far?
stretch: The concept of vaccination is very old. In Asia, for example, pustules were scraped out from people suffering from smallpox, dried and then this powder was blown into their noses. It was sort of a precursor to vaccination. Edward Jenner carried out the first smallpox vaccination in Europe. He has a related pathogen of smallpox, who took cowpox and noticed that if you vaccinated with cowpox, you no longer got the real smallpox. Dead or weakened pathogens that are injected into the muscle are therefore the classic forms of vaccination. In the meantime, this also works with virus proteins, since they are artificially produced surface proteins. The body’s reaction is always similar.
World: Well, not all vaccines last a lifetime, which vaccinations have to be refreshed or even vaccinated in the second half of life?
stretch: Especially with children’s vaccinations, it’s worth taking another look at the vaccination card, for example at tetanus or whooping cough. We need regular booster shots. Some cohorts received too few vaccinations against measles as children – there must be at least two. From the age of 60 we should be vaccinated against shingles or the flu, as recommended by the Standing Vaccination Committee.
WELT HEALTH every Friday at 5.40 p.m. on WELT. The show is also in the media library after it has been broadcast
and the TV app available. Watch last week’s episode on heart health here: