Experts: Not everyone needs the ommicron booster now
After a long wait, the first corona vaccines adapted to the ommicron variant will soon be available. To be precise: to the BA.1 subline. What can you expect and what not.
According to doctors, Omicron-adapted corona vaccines are useful for a large number of people in Germany, but they do not consider a population-wide use necessary.
“The new modified vaccines are suitable for groups for whom the Standing Vaccination Committee (Stiko) already recommends a second booster vaccination. These are people over 60, groups with risk factors and health professionals who have not yet received a fourth vaccination.” , said Leif Sander, a vaccine expert at the Berlin Charité and a member of the federal government’s Corona Expert Council, the dpa.
“If I do this now, I’d recommend it for likely extra protection.” Anyone who has had a breakthrough infection in the summer does not initially need an additional booster and must wait at least three months.
On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) paved the way for two vaccines adapted to the omicron variant for people aged twelve years and older: these are boosters that also take into account the BA.1 subline. A specific recommendation from Stiko for this is still pending.
Expert: No major differences between vaccines
According to Sander, many studies show, “The biggest difference in protection against serious illness and death is whether or not you received a second booster.” He argued for the most up-to-date vaccine available for the greatest possible added benefit – “that is, the one particularly close to the circulating variant”. If the vaccines adapted to the BA.4/BA.5 sublines currently circulating were to come in the near future, he would prefer them. “But you also have to say that there probably aren’t huge differences between the vaccines.”
Due to the countless different constellations of previous vaccinations and infections, the Charité researcher believes that it will become increasingly difficult to cover individual vaccination decisions with a general Stiko advice. “That means there could be many individual reasons why someone who is nominally not covered by the Stiko recommendation decides to have a fourth vaccination — and you can too.”
Virologist: Customized vaccination is not a game changer
The Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck, who is also a member of the Corona Expert Council, warned against too high expectations of the new vaccines. “The booster in turn causes a slightly increased antibody level in the blood of vaccinated people. How well it protects against infection has not been tested.” It should be assumed that the effect will be the same as with the previous booster, ie with protection against infection for a period of about three months.
“Protection against infection over an extended period of time has not been proven nor is it likely,” said Streeck, head of the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn. Despite everything, the new vaccines, as with the previous products, also offer good protection against serious diseases. In addition, the data to date has shown that the side effect profile is very similar to that of the original Covid-19 vaccines.
Streeck emphasized that he would like politicians to clearly communicate who needs a fourth vaccination with the modified vaccine. He thinks it is right that the Stiko has not yet made a statement about this. “Given the available data, I see no acute need for action. Because you should not expect too much from the modified vaccine and think that this would now be the game changer in the pandemic.”
The head of the Medical Association, Johannes Nießen, advised anyone who wants a fourth vaccination not to hesitate and wait for further vaccines. “He is not doing anything wrong if he is taking the BA.1 vaccine,” the president of the Federal Association of Physicians of Public Health (BVÖGD) told the Funke media group newspapers. It is currently not possible to say which of the two types of vaccines will provide better protection in the fall and winter, as there is not enough data yet. “We don’t even know which variety will be dominant in the fall and winter.”