SARS-CoV-2: vaccination after surviving corona infection?

Well over 2.5 million people in Germany survived COVID-19. When people who have recovered should still be vaccinated

Over two and a half million people in Germany have survived COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Are you immune to the virus and therefore no longer need a vaccination? The Standing Vaccination Commission says: At least not immediately. A single dose of vaccine should also suffice.

Good protection right after corona infection

Those who have recovered develop, at least temporarily, a certain level of protection against renewed infection. When infected, the body comes into contact with the virus. The immune system gets to know them and prepares various targeted defense mechanisms for the future. "Anyone who has been infected with COVID-19 is initially very well protected," says Professor Peter Palese, head of the microbiology department at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mountain Sinai in New York. An Austrian study underlines this.

In the specialist journal “European Journal of Clinical Investigation”, researchers working with Stefan Pilz, senior physician at the Graz Clinic, report that an infection that has already been overcome reduces the risk of re-infection by around 91 percent in the following five to six months. That is about as high as the protection provided by the best vaccinations.

Vaccination after six months at the earliest

In order to prevent excessive immune reactions and because vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are still in short supply, the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) based at the Robert Koch Institute takes the view: A single vaccination of people who have been infected should “be considered six months after recovery at the earliest become".

The body also comes into contact with components of the virus during a vaccination. In some cases these are already included in the vaccine. In other cases, with mRNA vaccination, for example, the body cells build them themselves. The immune cells recognize these virus components as foreign, fight them - and are then able to react faster and defend themselves against an infection if they use the real one Virus come into contact.

One vaccine dose is enough for those who have recovered

Most vaccines currently available do not work fully until after two injections. It should be different for people who have survived a corona infection. Various studies suggest that a single vaccination is sufficient for those who have recovered.

Ulrike Protzer, Director of the Institute for Virology at the Helmholtz Center in Munich and Head of the Institute for Virology at the Technical University of Munich, did an investigation: She left those clinic employees who were infected during the first wave last spring and summer , now vaccinate once according to the STIKO recommendation - and then analyzed the blood. Their results confirm the recommendation: Even after the first vaccination, you can see very high concentrations of neutralizing antibodies in all of them. "About as high as with the other, previously not infected, after two vaccinations," says Protzer.

If a SARS-CoV-2 infection occurs after the first vaccination against COVID-19, the following also applies: According to the STIKO, the second vaccination dose should only be given six months after recovery or the diagnosis.

No danger if the infection went without symptoms

But what if you don't even know you've had COVID-19? After all, some of the infections run without symptoms. Can a two-dose vaccination do any harm?

The STIKO of the RKI has "no indications that the vaccination after a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection would be problematic or associated with dangers". A test for antibodies, which can prove a previous infection, but has to be paid for, is therefore not necessary before vaccination.

In general, as with any other vaccination, the following applies: You should be as healthy as possible at the vaccination appointment. Anyone who feels signs of an infection should contact the vaccination doctor in advance and clarify whether a vaccination is still possible or whether the appointment should be postponed.

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