Have boosters and the pandemic is finally over? It’s probably not that simple. More vaccinations could follow. How often and how long would that have to be?
Berlin/Munich – Vaccination helps to protect against Corona – but not forever. The waning effect of the corona vaccines and new variants of the corona virus have dampened hopes of getting the pandemic under control quickly. Basic immunization is no longer enough to leave Covid-19 behind. The current magic word is booster, after which the booster-booster could even follow. Who needs it and why?
In Israel – a pioneer in corona vaccinations – this fourth dose is already being administered to people who are particularly at risk of corona. Although it causes a renewed increase in antibodies. Shortly after the fourth vaccination, however, the situation was the same as shortly after the third, according to the Israeli data. Does that mean that we need to be re-vaccinated against the coronavirus about every three to four months?
For the time being, the fourth dose is not an option for everyone – Israel is a role model
There is no clear answer to that. Sebastian Ulbert, vaccine researcher from the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, distinguishes between people with a healthy immune system and those with a weak immune system. This means: For Ulbert, the administration of a fourth dose is not initially an option for everyone, but primarily for older people and risk groups, as in Israel.
Christine Falk, President of the German Society for Immunology (DGfI), sees it similarly. She sees a fourth dose more for the very elderly. At the moment it is also about protecting old people’s homes in particular from omicron. The immunologist reports that some people from certain groups, such as transplant recipients, have already had four vaccinations. For the majority of the population, however, the booster booster does not play a role for the time being. “The normal population with a healthy immune system does not need the fourth vaccination,” says Falk.
Does the effect decrease in immune healthy people after the third vaccination and how much? For Ulbert this is still unclear. According to the vaccine expert, it could also be the case that you are protected from severe corona diseases “much longer”. For DGfI President Falk, the focus is currently on boosting the general population with a third vaccination in order to “get out of the winter”.
In the case of immune-healthy ones, one has to wait and see whether they need a booster after the booster
For the period after that, the experts are more confident – at least for those with a healthy immune system, if the virus does not change dramatically. With so-called “inactive vaccines” such as the corona vaccination, the protection usually remains “relatively high for a relatively long time” at the latest after the third vaccination, says Ulbert. The circulating antibodies could fall – as observed in Israel – but it is also about the immunological memory, which continues to protect against serious illness, according to the expert. Therefore, in the case of people with a healthy immune system – in contrast to those with a weak immune system – you first have to wait and see whether they need the booster after the booster at all, explains Ulbert.
Berlin virologist Christian Drosten takes the same line. In the ZDF “heute journal” he said that healthy adults might not need any further boosters. The prerequisite here, too: The virus no longer mutates as much. Does it make sense to wait for a vaccine adapted to the omicron variant? “As the omicron wave is already rolling, a rapid boost with the available vaccines is more important. This means that Omikron is also well protected against severe courses,” says vaccine expert Ulbert.
The hope: After the winter “gradual transition to an endemic situation”
The hope of immunologists like DGfI President Falk is that Corona will undergo a “gradual transition to an endemic situation” after the winter. This would mean that the virus appears regularly regionally and most people have some immunity through vaccination or infection. If that doesn’t happen, the majority of the immune-healthy could be back in the vaccination order in the fall of 2022 with the booster-booster. Then hopefully a refresher with an adapted vaccine will be used, says Falk. Ideally, this gift is coupled with a vaccination against influenza.
In concrete terms, that would probably mean: A visit to the doctor, two injections. And then? Ulbert reports on research on a corona vaccine that should work against a large number of variants. “It would be great to have a vaccine that covers other variants of Sars-CoV-2, but also other corona viruses,” the expert ventures a look into the future. On the one hand, this means that one would also be better prepared for possible future pandemics. But that means that the vaccination against Corona would not be over yet. (cg with dpa) *Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA
From February you can protect yourself against Corona in Germany with a new vaccine. Four others are currently under review and could follow soon.