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ÖGAI – Expert platform on pandemic issues

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Press release of the Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI) on the occasion of 50 years of ÖGAI, the “Day of Immunology” on April 29, 2021 and the European Immunization Week (April 26 to May 2, 2021)

Bundled expertise
ÖGAI is an expert platform for scientifically validated information on pandemic issues

Vienna, 29 April 2021 – In addition to concerns about one’s health, rumors and “fake news” about the risk of corona infection and vaccine side effects are unsettling. The Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI) is an association that provides scientifically validated expertise on immunological and allergological issues such as the side effect risk of COVID vaccination. This year’s Immunology Day is also dedicated to the topic of COVID-19. For this purpose, the ÖGAI provides recommendations based on the current state of science free of charge for physicians as well as for the general public. For a fact check it is best to visit the website:

Do allergy sufferers have an increased risk of side effects after COVID-19 vaccination? Is it advisable for people with an autoimmune disease to get vaccinated? Are women or men at higher risk for infection or vaccine side effects? These are all questions that are currently occupying – and unsettling – the population on a massive scale. Experts in immunology and allergology have well-founded answers. The Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, unites these two disciplines. “In the current corona pandemic, the need for information and the interest in immunological topics are enormous,” says ÖGAI President Univ.-Prof. Dr. Erika Jensen-Jarolim. The ÖGAI was founded with the vision of bundling expertise from the fields of immunology and allergology. In the current pandemic, this vision is in practice as never before. “Because we understand how the immune system works.”

Vaccination: Reducing fear with education
There is a great deal of public concern and need for information, particularly regarding the safety of the available SARS-CoV2 vaccines. “People have a lot of questions,” knows clinical immunologist Assoz.Prof. DDr. Eva Untersmayr-Elsenhuber from the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research at the Medical University of Vienna and on the board of the ÖGAI. Especially patients with previous immunological diseases are uncertain whether the vaccination represents a risk for them. “In general, there is a need for a patient-specific risk-benefit assessment. However, the consensus among experts is that patients with immunological diseases in particular clearly benefit from the protection of a COVID-19 vaccination in most cases and have no increased risk of side effects. This is true for patients with autoimmune diseases as well as for people after organ transplantation, who have a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with a
Corona infection to become severely ill. There is also a lot to be said for vaccination in haematological diseases such as coagulation disorders,” informs the immunologist and refers to a current publication of the ÖGAI, which answers in detail burning questions for clinical immunologists in connection with the new COVID vaccinations and will soon be published in a renowned scientific journal as well as being available on the ÖGAI website.1 “With profound and scientifically based information, we want to take away people’s fear and provide doctors with reliable recommendations for action.”

A question of gender?
In addition to factors such as previous illnesses and age, the role of gender in connection with the risk and course of the disease is also discussed. Fact: Men have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The risk of a severe course of the disease is also greater.2 Untersmayr-Elsenhuber explains, “One of the main reasons for this is that the structures in the human body responsible for coronavirus penetration into cells are found in greater quantities in men than in women.” In addition, the female immune system is better armed against viruses than the male. To date, no gender-specific differences have been found with regard to the effectiveness of COVID vaccination. In terms of safety issues, women are generally more likely to experience vaccine side effects. “Women have a stronger immune response than men and therefore respond more strongly to vaccination,” she said, pointing out, “The dreaded vaccine side effect of cerebral venous thrombosis, while also more common in women, is extremely rare overall – 0.0005 percent of all vaccinated individuals experience this side effect after administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been discredited for this.” However, if a person falls ill with COVID-19, the risk of thromboembolism is much higher and lies between 10 and 20 percent.

Hotly debated: COVID-19 Vaccinations & Allergies
Severe allergic side effects – a so-called anaphylactic reaction – of the vaccination were also discussed with particular excitement among the population. “The ÖGAI, together with the allergology working group of the dermatological society ÖGDV, has developed a traffic light system with recommendations for action, which is a simple aid for vaccinators”, informs Univ.-Prof. DDr. Wolfram Hötzenecker, MBA, ÖGAI vice president and board member as well as chair of dermatology at the Clinic for Dermatology and Venereology at the Kepler University Hospital Linz. Anaphylactic reactions to vaccinations are very rare events: “On average, one case occurs per 100,000 to one million vaccinations. Namely, when you have an allergy to an ingredient of the vaccination.” People with, for example, hay fever, neurodermatitis or a food allergy therefore have no increased risk, emphasizes the allergist. So for the most part, allergy sufferers can be vaccinated without any problems.3

50 years ÖGAI: Achievements & goals
The Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI) unites Austrian allergists and immunologists from science and medicine. Their motto: “Life for research. Research for life”. It has always been the goal of the Society to promote interdisciplinary education and training, and especially the next generation of scientists, to further improve the lives of patients with allergies and immune disorders. Allergology in particular is an interdisciplinary field in which many medical professions work together. Hötzenecker: “There is an enormous need for additional training as an allergist, as already exists in other European countries.”
The ÖGAI is well networked with the societies for allergology and immunology worldwide and will in future expand cooperation with other specialist areas such as dermatology, rheumatology, paediatrics, gastroenterology, occupational medicine and general medicine, but also aerobiology and environmental medicine – above all in order to comply with the One Health concept. Because the health of humans, animals and the environment are interconnected. For example, the effects of climate change and air pollution or encounters with microbes and parasites have an influence on the development of allergies. “To prevent diseases such as the allergy epidemic or to combat viral pandemics, an interdisciplinary and holistic approach is absolutely necessary,” Jensen-Jarolim said.
Cooperation with patient organisations is also to be strengthened. “Members of the ÖGAI are already represented in the scientific committees of patient organisations. This guarantees scientifically tested patient information”, says the ÖGAI president.

Link tips: Opinions & recommendations on COVID vaccination and allergies as well as immunodeficiencies and SARS-CoV-2 infection, patient guide and much more. 50th anniversary video:

Contact for journalists:
Prof. Dr. Erika Jensen-Jarolim
President of the Austrian Society for Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI)
T: 01 / 40400-51100

Elisabeth Leeb
[ PR Consulting ‘ Media Relations ‘ Copy ]
T: 0699 / 1 424 77 79 E:

Picture material
Prof. Dr. Erika Jensen-Jarolim: © MeduniWien/Felicitas Matern, reprint free of charge
Assoc. Prof. DDr. Eva Untersmayr-Elsenhuber: © MeduniWien/Felicitas Matern, reprint free of charge
Priv.-Doz. DDr. Wolfram Hötzenecker, MBA: © Kepleruniklinikum, reprint free of charge

Photos in print quality are available from Elisabeth Leeb

1 Untersmayr E et al. Burning questions for clinical immunologists related to the new COVID vaccines. Allergo Journal Int. 2021. In press.
2 Peckham H et al. Male sex identified by global COVID-19 meta-analysis as a risk factor for death and ITU admission. Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 6317 (2020)
3 Altrichter S et al. Answers to burning questions for clinical allergists related to the new COVID vaccines. Allergo Journal Int. 2021. In press.