FAQs: Finally vaccinated! And now?

Answers to important questions: How well a vaccination protects you and others, what freedoms you get, how long it lasts - in short: what changes after a vaccination

What do I do if I have symptoms after the vaccination?

The body may feel a noticeable reaction after each vaccination. This can be, for example: headache, body aches, pain at the injection site or a reddening there, a slight fever, tiredness or flu-like symptoms. "These reactions are a sign that the immune system is reacting to the vaccination. This is normal and not a cause for concern," says Professor Marylyn Addo, head of the Infectious Disease Department at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. If necessary, you can take pain reliever or antipyretic medication. You should talk to your family doctor about this or seek advice from the pharmacy.

"Any side effects that go beyond this should be reported to your family doctor. You can also report them via SafeVac 2.0," says Addo. SafeVac 2.0 is a free app for measuring the tolerance of COVID-19 vaccines. It is tied to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, the German Federal Institute for Vaccines and Medical Drugs.

When is the vaccination effective?

The vaccines approved in Germany require two injections. For the vaccines from Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna, the second injection should be given after three to four weeks, for the vaccine from AstraZeneca after nine to twelve weeks.
After the second injection, the full vaccination protection unfolds within a few days: "You have full vaccination protection about one to three weeks after the vaccination," says Professor Addo from Hamburg. Even after the first vaccination, a certain protection builds up, but not to the same extent.

How well does the vaccination protect me?

All three currently approved vaccines - from AstraZeneca, from Biontech / Pfizer and from Moderna - have a high probability of protecting against a severe course of COVID-19. In the approval studies, none of the vaccinated became so seriously ill that treatment in an intensive care unit was necessary.

The vaccinations also protect quite well against mild and moderate courses: The vaccines from Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna reduce the risk by around 95 percent, and that of AstraZeneca by around 60 percent.

As a vaccinated person, am I still contagious?

The vaccine protects against a (serious) illness caused by the coronavirus with a high degree of certainty. But whether it prevents infection with the virus and whether it prevents you from infecting other people is not yet fully understood.

"There are promising initial signs in studies that the risk is very low that vaccinated people can spread COVID-19 further. But because there is still not enough data available, vaccinated people should always wear face masks and keep distance rules", says Ulrike Protzer, Director of the Institute for Virology at the Helmholtz Center Munich and Head of the Institute for Virology at the Technical University of Munich.

What will change for me in terms of precautionary measures?

The fact that someone who has been vaccinated may still infect others is just one of several reasons why the precautionary measures - observing hygiene, wearing a mask and regularly ventilating - should continue to be observed as before the vaccination.

On the one hand, according to the current rules for vaccinated people, there are no exceptions to the mask requirement in shops and closed, public spaces.

On the other hand, the precautionary measures also serve to protect yourself: "Because a vaccination does not provide 100 percent protection against infection and illness," says Ulrike Protzer.

As a vaccinated person, do I have more freedom than an unvaccinated person?

A kind of vaccination card has already been introduced in Israel, which entitles them to visit restaurants or events, for example. Something similar is also being discussed in Germany, but has also been criticized from many quarters. So there are no specific plans in this country for a vaccination card that grants special rights and special freedoms.

What do I do if I get typical COVID-19 complaints?

Anyone who has been vaccinated and who discovers typical COVID-19 signs in themselves - the most common symptoms are fever and cough, the temporary loss of smell and taste is particularly characteristic - should be tested to be on the safe side. Because even a vaccination is not always 100 percent reliable.

How long will the vaccination protection last?

We know for sure from the approval studies that the vaccination protection lasts for a few months. A longer observation time of the vaccinated is not yet available. The vaccination may lose its effectiveness after six months, or it may work for many years. That is not yet certain.

A number of studies provide evidence that the effects will not suddenly wane, but that the vaccine protection in the body could last for at least a year or more. Experts see indications that the protection of a vaccination may provide longer-lasting protection than a previous infection. But - and this is no wonder, given the fact that SARS-CoV-2 was discovered just a little over a year ago - the following applies to all of this: We do not yet know the exact details.