Ill from corona vaccination: Anyone suffering from the rare “post-vac syndrome” experiences headaches, shortness of breath and sometimes serious side effects. The phenomenon is still little researched. How common is the disease and what can be done?
The Corona vaccination is “free of side effects“ – Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach received a lot of criticism for this statement. Because even if vaccination is one of the most effective measures to contain the corona pandemic – according to one current study it is said to have saved up to 20 million lives worldwide – in very rare cases, a vaccination can also lead to symptoms, some of which are serious. Meanwhile, Lauterbach, himself a licensed doctor, is rowing back: the post-vac syndrome must be better examined, he recently called for Twitter.
Post-vac symptoms appear later and more intensely than vaccination reactions
In contrast to direct vaccination reactions, the symptoms of post-vac usually only appear two to three weeks after vaccination, explains Prof. Bernhard Schieffer, head of the Post-Vax ambulance at the University Hospital in Marburg. Because of the similar symptoms to long-Covid, i.e. the persistent symptoms after a corona infection, the “post-vac syndrome” is sometimes also referred to in the media as “long-Covid after COVID-19 vaccination”. Headaches and migraines are common , dizziness, nausea, but also cardiovascular problems and movement disorders, says Schieffer.
But also severe side effects such as thrombosis of the cerebral veins, symptoms of paralysis, inflammation of the pericardium or chronic exhaustion can occur in very rare cases after a corona vaccination. Sudden side effects that only appear years later have not been found in any vaccine ever developed and are also after a corona vaccination not to be expected.
Risk for Long-Covid much higher than for Post-Vac
Noisy Safety report of the Paul Ehrlich Institute From the start of vaccination until March 2022, there were around 1.7 reports of suspected side effects and vaccination complications per 1,000 corona vaccinations. According to the report, around 0.02 percent of those vaccinated, i.e. almost 13,000 people, had to deal with serious side effects. This also includes cases of adverse reactions “of special interest following COVID-19 vaccines” such as breathing difficulties and arrhythmia, which do not normally fall under the Drug Act’s definition of serious adverse reactions.
For comparison: In the case of Long-Covid, data indicate a German study points out that up to 20 to 30 percent of those who have recovered suffer from ongoing health problems six months after a corona infection. The risk of getting longer-lasting symptoms is therefore many times higher after a corona infection than after a corona vaccination.
Young women in particular are said to be affected
Contrary to previous assumptions, it is mainly young people and especially young women who are affected by the post-vac syndrome, observes Prof. Schieffer from the University Hospital in Marburg. He suspects that undiscovered immunological defects or an acute infection could be behind serious vaccination complications in previously fit sufferers.
According to Schieffer, such people should be better protected in the future. For this he calls for further research, especially in basic research in the field of virology and immunology and also in clinical research. The mechanism that triggers the symptoms after vaccination is also still a subject of research.
Little data: Anyone can report side effects of vaccinations
Suspected cases of post-vac syndrome are increasing. This is reported by the Paul Ehrlich Institute in a statement to the SWR. However, no direct risk signal can be derived from this alone, it is said. Because in the majority of the German reports, the diagnosis was not confirmed by a doctor, according to the statement.
However, the treating physicians can do it obligation to report usually difficult to keep up, says epidemiologist Dr. Klaus Stoehr. A doctor needs an average of 20 to 30 minutes per patient to fill out the relevant forms, for which he does not receive adequate remuneration. One should not forget, Stöhr told SWR, that so many people have never been vaccinated in such a short time. So far, the infrastructure has been missing to adequately track side effects.
Therefore, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut also calls on those affected to avoid vaccination side effects themselves on-line or by telephone to the institute – with the urgent advice to see a doctor immediately for the diagnosis and treatment of the symptoms.
Where can those affected find help?
In addition to the family doctor, those affected with serious vaccination side effects can now also turn to specialized consultation hours. Such are, for example, on Fatigue center of the Berlin Charitéat the Special outpatient clinic at the University Clinic in Marburgat the University Hospital Cologne and in gain offered. However, there are still very few such contact points throughout Germany, so the waiting lists are correspondingly long.
In many cities and communities, self-help groups have now been formed in which those affected can exchange ideas with each other. However, those seeking help should exercise caution when it comes to recommendations for questionable therapies, which can sometimes cost several thousand euros and, in case of doubt, have to be paid by patients themselves. Such therapies can sometimes have serious side effects, says Prof. Christoph Kleinschnitz from the University Hospital Essen.