Coronavirus: Experts: Not everyone needs the omicron booster now

According to physicians, corona vaccines adapted to Omicron are useful for a large number of people in Germany, but they do not consider a population-wide use to be necessary.

Coronavirus: Experts: Not everyone needs the omicron booster now

According to physicians, corona vaccines adapted to Omicron are useful for a large number of people in Germany, but they do not consider a population-wide use to be necessary.

"The new adapted vaccines are suitable for groups for whom the Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) is already recommending a second booster vaccination. These are people over 60, groups with risk factors and healthcare workers who have not yet received a fourth vaccination." , said Leif Sander, vaccine expert at the Berlin Charité and member of the Federal Government's Corona Expert Council, the dpa.

"Doing this now I would recommend for a probable additional protective effect." Anyone who had a breakthrough infection in the summer initially does not need an additional booster and should wait at least three months.

On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency EMA cleared the way for two vaccines adapted to the omicron variant for people aged twelve and over. The EU Commission approved the vaccines shortly thereafter, as the authority announced on Friday. A Stiko recommendation specifically for this is still pending.

The vaccines are bivalent mRNA preparations that are adapted to the original Sars-CoV-2 variant and to the omicron subline BA.1. Although BA.1 no longer plays a role in this country, experts assume that the new vaccines also have an advantage over the currently dominant BA.5 subtype.

Expert: No major differences between vaccines

Sander advocated taking the most up-to-date available vaccine for the greatest possible additional benefit - "that is, the one that is particularly close to the circulating variant". If the vaccines adapted to the sub-lines BA.4/BA.5 that are currently circulating were to come in the near future, he would prefer them. "But you also have to say that there are probably no huge differences between the vaccines."

Because of 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 recommendation. "That means there can be many individual reasons why someone who does not nominally fall under the Stiko recommendation decides to have a fourth vaccination - and you can do that too."

Virologist: Customized vaccination is not a game changer

The Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck, who also sits on the Corona Expert Council, warned against excessive expectations of the new vaccines. "The booster again ensures a slightly increased antibody level in the blood of vaccinated people. How well it protects against infection has not been tested." One has to assume that the effect will be the same as with the previous booster, i.e. with protection against infection for an approximate period of three months.

"Protection against infection for a longer period of time has not been proven and is also not likely," said Streeck, who heads the Institute for Virology at the University of Bonn. Despite everything, the new vaccines also offer good protection against serious illness, as with the previous products. In addition, the data to date have 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 communicate clearly who needs a fourth vaccination with the adapted vaccine. He finds it justifiable that the Stiko has not yet issued a statement on this. "In view of the available data, I don't see any acute need for action. Because you shouldn't expect too much from the adapted vaccine and think that this would now be the game changer in the pandemic."

The head of the Medical Association, Johannes Nießen, advised that anyone who wants to get a fourth vaccination should not hesitate and wait for further vaccines. "He doesn't do anything wrong if he uses the BA.1 vaccine," said the chairman of the Federal Association of Physicians in Public Health Services (BVÖGD) to the newspapers of the Funke media group. It is currently not possible to say which of the two types of vaccine will provide better protection in autumn and winter because there is still a lack of data. "We don't even know which variant will be dominant in the fall and winter."

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