In bed with a fever and headache, quite a few vaccinated people had hoped to get rid of an infection ‘more easily’. – © Belga

Now that the virus is rampant among children, and quite a few parents are infected and often fall seriously ill for a few days as well, it’s just about the most frequently asked question of the moment: “I’m ‘young’, I’ve been doubly vaccinated and yet I’m still lying on the couch. Why is that? So what does this vaccine do?” “I hear that question too,” says Steven Van Gucht. “But there is an answer.”
Thirty-plus and forty plus- and the smallest children – currently make up the largest group by far when it comes to new infections. “A cold, a cough here and there, a running nose and that’s it.” That’s what many double-vaccinated people within that age group thought they would get out of it. But in reality, they sometimes don’t get off so easily: a few days in bed including fever, headache, muscle aches, hard fatigue or also no smell and taste. 

“What was the purpose of those vaccines then”, it soon sounds. It happens, if not on their own family, then in the family of their friends. “I also see it in my family,” says virologist Steven Van Gucht of Sciensano. “People who got it after double vaccination and were still in bed with a fever. “What the vaccine does” is a question you may indeed ask then. Because there is an answer. The vaccine prevents from worse. Anyone who is lying in bed with a fever today could, without the vaccine, possibly be in the hospital on a tube. So it prevents much worse situations and limits to being sick for just a few days.”  According to Pierre Van Damme, the delta variant is more pathogenic ánd the vaccine protection against flu-like symptoms has decreased 

But why ‘pretty sick’ instead of that expected cough and running nose? Why doesn’t the vaccine also prevent those nasty flu symptoms? “Because for many people the last shot is now already about five months ago,” explains vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme. “We have since learned that over time the protection against infection and getting those flu-like symptoms decreases first of all, while the protection against more serious infections is still there. Add to that the fact that we also have the delta variant, which is more contagious and pathogenic. This is precisely why a booster shot is so useful. It will also protect against the symptoms of flu again.

“In concrete terms, we see the following happening with this group of people who are currently getting infected and suffering from it: they get an infection in the nose,” says Van Gucht. “That triggers a reaction from your body, it fights against it, which makes you feel very bad: fever, headache, tired,…. But the vaccine ensures that the virus remains in the nose and does not spread further into the lungs. That way there is no pneumonia and it has no effect on the oxygen in your blood, so you don’t have to go to the hospital. And in the end we see that on average those symptoms are over after three to four days.”

Equal to booster shot?”Whether vaccinated people who now become infected already got their ‘natural booster shot depends from person to person,” says Van Damme. “That’s why we still recommend that everyone who got infected now also take that booster shot. Especially now that we see omikron emerging. According to the latest results, protection after the booster also increases against infections of that variant by more than 75 percent.”