TBE vaccination is the only safe protection against tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). This is a tick-borne viral infection that can be very dangerous. Therefore, TBE vaccination is recommended to all people in TBE risk areas. It can be administered by the family doctor or by a travel doctor. Read all important information about the TBE vaccine here.
What is the TBE vaccine?
TBE vaccination is a vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis. This tick-borne viral infection is rare but can have serious consequences: it can cause inflammation of the meninges, brain and spinal cord. This can have longer-lasting or even permanent neurological consequences such as paralysis. In rare cases, FSME even leads to death.
For prevention, a vaccine against FSME was developed. The vaccine is a so-called inactivated vaccine, It consists of inactivated TBE viruses, These can no longer trigger disease, but still activate the immune system: the white blood cells (defense cells of the body) memorize the characteristic features of the TBE viruses and develop specific antibodies against it. Later, when a true infection with the TBE virus occurs, the immune system is armed: it immediately begins to produce the specific TBE antibodies in large numbers to eliminate the invader before the TBE can break out.
Attention: TBE vaccination only prevents infection with TBE viruses. It offers no protection against other tick-borne pathogens (such as Lyme Bacteria).
Who should receive the TBE vaccine?
The TBE vaccine is recommended in Germany by the responsible authorities (Robert Koch Institute) for the following people:
- People living or traveling in TBE risk areas. This also includes people who spend much of their free time in forest and meadow areas within TBE risk areas. When traveling abroad, it should be clarified in advance with a travel medicine, if there is a risk of infection in the target area.
- Occupational groups who may be confronted with the TBE virus while working. These include, for example, foresters, hunters, forest workers, agricultural workers and employees in medical laboratories.
TBE risk areas
In Germany are mainly ticks in Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg infected with the TBE virus. An increased risk of infection is also in the southern Hesse (Odenwald) and in southeastern Thuringia, Outside the reported TBE areas, TBE transmission occurs only in isolated cases.
In many other countries of Europe you can also get infected with TBE. If you look for example Hungary, Sweden, Northern Italy or Croatia travel, a TBE vaccine may be useful. This is especially true if you want to hike or camp there for example – ticks like to stay in high grass, bushes and undergrowth.
Read more about the areas in Switzerland and abroad, where there is a risk of infection to FSME, in the article TBE areas.
How is the TBE vaccine administered?
In Germany are currently two TBE vaccines approved: FSME-Immun® and Encepur®. In both cases, three vaccine doses are necessary for the primary vaccination. Thereafter, there is a high level of immune protection against TBE viruses. He should, however, be refreshed at certain intervals (booster vaccinations).
Note: The two TBE vaccines are considered equivalent and interchangeable. Nevertheless, the same TBE vaccine should be used whenever possible for the primary vaccination and boosters.
TBE vaccination series
The primary immunization for the TBE vaccine consists of three injections. The second vaccine dose should one to three months be given after the first. When the third vaccine dose is recommended depends on the TBE vaccine used: In TBE-Immun®, the third dose five to twelve months administered after the second. Encepur® will be the third dose nine to twelve months recommended after the second dose.
In addition to this standard vaccination schedule, there is also one Quick vaccination schedule (eg for short-term planned trips to a TBE risk area). It looks like this:
- TBE Immun®: The second vaccine dose is given as early as 14 days after the first dose. The third dose should be given five to twelve months after the second injection (as in the standard schedule).
- Encepur®: The second vaccine dose will be given 7 days after the first, the third dose 14 days after the second.
TBE vaccination: refresher
The immune protection acquired with the complete primary vaccination will last at least three years. For longer protection it should be refreshed at certain intervals depending on the TBE vaccine:
at TBE Immun® the first booster vaccination will be due three years after the primary vaccination, regardless of whether it was administered according to the standard schedule or the rapid vaccination schedule. The further TBE refresher tests should then be carried out for people under the age of 60 at intervals of five years each. People who are 60 years or older should have the TBE refresher every three years.
at Encepur® The first booster dose should be given three years after the primary vaccination, when administered according to the standard schedule. Those who got vaccinated against FSME in the quick vaccination schedule should have their immune protection freshened up 12 to 18 months later for the first time. In both cases, the same recommendations apply to further booster vaccinations: People under the age of 50 should have the TBE vaccine refreshed every five years. For people who are 50 years or older, TBE refresher every three years is advisable.
TBE vaccination: children
In children, an early summer meningoencephalitis usually heals without consequences. Nevertheless, a vaccine protection is important for them: children play a lot outdoors – in the woods and meadows – and are therefore pricked more often by ticks. The likelihood of TBE infection is higher for them than for adults.
As a precaution, children can be vaccinated against TBE from the first birthday. There are special TBE vaccines for children to disposal. They can be given up to the age of 11 (Encepur® children) or 16 years (FSME-Immun® Junior). The same recommendations for primary immunization and refresher will apply as for the corresponding adult vaccines.
TBE vaccine: side effects
As with any vaccine, side effects are possible with the TBE vaccine. But they occur quite rarely and are usually harmless:
Most often, the TBE vaccine causes side effects at the injection site (redness, swelling, pain). In addition, in the first days after vaccination, you may experience general symptoms such as increased temperature, fatigue, fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, malaise or gastrointestinal complaints. Such side effects usually occur only after the first vaccine dose, more rarely after further injections. In addition, they will soon be coming to an end on their own.
Very rarely, the TBE vaccine triggers serious side effects such as allergic reactions. In isolated cases, disorders of the nervous system (including paralysis) have been observed after vaccination, mostly in adults.
Generally, if the TBE vaccination Side effects, you should inform the doctor before the next vaccination.
TBE vaccine: costs
The statutory health insurance usually pay the TBE vaccine for people who live in high-risk areas. For certain occupational groups (such as foresters), the employer usually pays the costs of vaccination.
In all other cases you have the TBE vaccination usually pay out of pocket, such as before traveling to a TBE risk area. But it does not hurt to ask in advance at the own health insurance company for a reimbursement of costs.