Do medical syringes really expire

Infectious diseases: How risky are vaccinations really?

Most of the time, polio is not noticed. The disease is highly contagious, but hardly anyone shows symptoms. In five percent of cases alone, the viruses lead to a fever, sore throat and sweating in the body - it's as annoying as the flu, but without any consequences after a few days. The remaining five percent are critical: one to two weeks after the symptoms develop meningitis, which can lead to paralysis.

Today, children in developing countries are particularly at risk. Europe has been polio-free since 2002. Because the disease is no longer an acute threat in this country, the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has only recommended dead vaccine (IPV) since 1998. Those who are vaccinated with it are protected from paralysis, but can spread the pathogen even further.

Who should be vaccinated? Especially infants and young toddlers. Depending on whether it is a single or a combination vaccine, two or four injections are sufficient for protection.

When? The first vaccination takes place from the completed second month of life, i.e. from the ninth week. Injections follow after the age of three and four months. The last dose is given at the end of the first year of life. The vaccination should be refreshed between the ages of nine and 17.

Are there any risks? The vaccine is usually given in combination against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, Hib and hepatitis B. So it is a six-fold vaccine that children get. Side effects are rare, usually mild and no more common than with individual vaccinations (Human vaccines: Reinert, Philippe, et al., 2006). With the combination vaccine, fewer injections and vaccination appointments are required, which reduces pain, time and costs. Unwanted reactions of the harmless kind include redness, pain and swelling at the puncture sites. In individual cases - one in 10,000 people vaccinated - a febrile seizure can occur, which has no consequences.

However, it is rumored that the vaccine was life-threatening and that children died from it. In fact, the drugs Infanrix hexa from GlaxoSmithKline and Hexavac from Sanofi Pasteur MSD, which were approved in 2000, were once suspected of being potentially harmful. Within three years, five children died suddenly within 24 hours of being vaccinated. Around three million children were vaccinated with it during the same period.

Doctors have not been able to prove a direct connection; instead, the European Medicines Agency refuted the allegations in 2003. One conclusion: "The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks," the vaccines should continue to be used.

Hexavac was withdrawn from the market in 2005. Not because it is harmful, but because the combination will probably not protect against hepatitis B for life. A third six-fold vaccine, Hexyon, has been approved since 2013.