The diseases against which infants, children and adolescents should be vaccinated are determined by a group of experts. It is called the Standing Commission on Vaccination or STIKO for short. They regularly check which vaccinations are necessary and which are not. Below you will find brief descriptions of the diseases your child will be protected against with the vaccinations. Vaccinations are given in the order in which the diseases are listed here. Your paediatrician and the vaccination schedule will tell you which vaccinations are due and when.
Rotaviruses are one of the most common causes of diarrhoea and vomiting in children. The pathogens are very contagious. Without vaccination, almost all children contract the disease within the first five years of life. Infants in particular can lose so much fluid in a short time due to diarrhoea and fever that it can become life-threatening. The vaccination against rotaviruses is an oral vaccination. This means that your child does not receive a shot, but is given the vaccine by mouth with a tube. Depending on the vaccine, two or three repetitions at intervals of at least four weeks are necessary.
Diphtheria is an infection that is transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or speaking. The pathogen - the diphtheria bacterium - infects the mucous membranes and mainly affects the upper respiratory tract, such as the throat, pharynx or nose. However, it can spread throughout the body. Once the bacteria is in the body, it forms a dangerous toxin that can permanently damage the heart and other vital organs.
To become infected with tetanus, the smallest injuries can be enough. This is because the bacteria that cause the disease can be found almost anywhere. When tetanus bacteria enter the human body, they produce a toxin that causes serious, long-lasting muscle spasms. That is why the disease has also historically been called ‘lockjaw’. If left untreated, it almost always leads to death. That is why vaccination is important for everyone.
Whooping cough is caused by bacteria. The disease mainly affects the upper respiratory tract. It triggers violent spasmodic coughing fits and can even cause choking. Especially for infants under six months, whooping cough can be life-threatening.
Haemophilus influenzae is a bacterium that can cause life-threatening inflammation of the ear, nose and throat, lungs and brain, especially in children. It can also cause inflammation in the larynx, leading to choking. Even if a child survives an infection with Hib, permanent hearing damage and developmental disorders may remain despite treatment. Severe Hib infections are most common during the first five years of life. Treatment of Hib disease that has already broken out is complicated by the fact that some species of these bacteria no longer respond to antibiotics.
Polio, also called poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis, used to be a feared childhood disease because it can cause severe and permanent paralysis. The arms and legs are particularly affected. The main triggers is the polio virus. It affects the nerve cells in the body that are responsible for controlling the muscles. If the respiratory muscles are affected, this can lead to death. Even years after infection, the disease can reappear.
Hepatitis B is liver inflammation caused by a virus and is common worldwide. Every year in Germany alone, several hundred to thousands of people become infected with it. One to six months after the infection, flu-like symptoms appear, often combined with jaundice, i.e. a yellowish discoloration of the skin. Sometimes nausea and vomiting also occur. The virus is in the blood, but also in other body fluids from the infected person. Pregnant people who are infected can transmit the virus to their baby during pregnancy or birth. However, most people become infected through sexual intercourse. Nevertheless, experts advise vaccination during childhood. There are two reasons for this. Infants very rarely contract hepatitis B. But when it happens, they often remain permanently infected. Secondly, early vaccination ensures that children are definitely protected later when they grow up and have sexual intercourse. Usually, infants are vaccinated with a six-dose vaccine that also contains vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio and Hib.
Pneumococci are bacteria that cause serious illnesses such as meningitis, pneumonia or otitis media. In bad cases, these can leave permanent damage or even be fatal. Infants and toddlers are particularly at risk because their body's defense against disease is not yet as strong. Also at risk is anyone who is already weakened by a viral infection. Many of the meningitis cases that occur in children are caused by pneumococcus. The bacteria are transmitted by droplet infection, mainly through coughing and sneezing.
Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus. Infected people spread it in the form of tiny droplets in the air when they speak, cough and sneeze. If you breathe them in, you can get infected very easily. But you can also get infected by touching things that measles sufferers have touched before you. Those who are infected initially experience flu-like symptoms and fever. Later, red spots appear first on the ears and then on the entire body. The rash is a typical feature of measles. Most of the time, measles heals on its own. In rare cases, however, it can lead to more serious problems, such as dangerous encephalitis.
Mumps is a viral disease that first causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and headache. Typical of mumps is swelling of the parotid gland on one or both sides, usually lasting three to eight days. Mumps generally heals without any problems. However, up to one in ten people who fall ill with it develop meningitis. Very rarely, there is even inflammation of the brain or inflammation of the auditory nerve. Then there is a risk of permanent damage such as paralysis or permanent hearing loss. For boys, mumps carries another danger. The older they are when they get the disease, the greater the risk that the testicles will become inflamed and fertility will be reduced later.
Rubella is a viral infection that can cause a typical red rash. However, the signs of the disease are not the same for everyone. Some people do not even notice the infection. Often rubella is not recognized because the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. Most often, the infection passes without problems. Rubella is especially dangerous during the first four months of pregnancy. For this reason, all pregnant people who take part in prenatal examinations are tested for rubella and the result is entered in the maternity record (Mutterpass).
A typical symptom of chickenpox is a skin rash with many small, very itchy blisters. The triggers is a virus. It is called varicella. The chickenpox virus is usually transmitted by coughing and sneezing. Infection is also possible if droplets from the rash blisters are inhaled. Chickenpox usually heals without any problems. However, the infection is often more severe in adolescents and adults than in children. If you have had chickenpox once or have been vaccinated against it, you will not get it a second time. However, the virus can remain permanently in certain nerve cells even after an infection has been overcome. If the body's defense against disease is severely weakened, for example in old age or in the case of certain other diseases, a second case of chickenpox can still occur many years later. Then it manifests with other symptoms and is called shingles. Anyone who has not been vaccinated against varicella and has not had chickenpox can become infected and contract chickenpox.
Meningococcus is a bacteria that can cause inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain or blood poisoning. The pathogens are transmitted through close contact with a sick person or via droplets, especially when coughing or sneezing. People who fall ill with a meningococcal infection usually have to be treated in hospital and sometimes in an intensive care unit because of the problems that often occur. Blood poisoning can even be fatal. Meningitis can leave permanent damage such as developmental disabilities, paralysis, seizures and deafness.