Corona pandemic: too slow with booster vaccinations?


Status: 10/21/2021 4:53 a.m.

So far, only about 1.35 million people in Germany have received a booster vaccination. Studies and current figures show that vaccination protection is decreasing. Is Germany too slow with booster vaccinations?

By Patrick Gensing,

The oldest people were vaccinated first at the beginning of the year and in the spring because they can be particularly hard hit by Covid-19 diseases. More than half a year has now passed – and studies have documented that vaccination protection is waning in the elderly.

Reinhold Förster from the Institute for Immunology at the Hannover Medical School confirmed in an interview with tagesschau.dethat the protection is decreasing. “The half-life is relatively short,” says Förster. “The older people are, the faster the immune protection declines”.

Declining effectiveness

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also appreciates in his weekly report, the vaccination effectiveness has recently decreased. According to the RKI, it was 83 percent for the age group 18 to 59 years and around 82 percent for the age group over 60 years for the period 5th to 40th calendar week.

For the period of the past four weeks (37th to 40th calendar week), however, the estimated vaccination effectiveness fell: for the age group 18 to 59 years to about 78 percent and for the age group over 60 years to 76 percent. The protection against hospitalization and death, however, is still significantly higher – at 90 to 96 percent.

When does the vaccination protection decrease?

The numbers from the hospitals clearly show that vaccinated people continue to have a much lower risk of getting seriously ill with Covid-19 compared to unvaccinated people – even if “lateral thinkers” to deny this again and again. But the crucial question is: When does vaccination protection decrease so much that a booster vaccination becomes important in order to be able to continue protecting against Covid-19?

In Israel, where the vaccination campaign was pushed forward very quickly, researchers laid a study before, according to which a booster vaccination against Covid-19 offers older people significantly higher protection against infection and serious illness.

The memory cells and the corona problem

Most studies so far relate to older people. Experts assume that vaccination protection decreases more slowly in younger people. In addition, a basic defense remains in place. Christine Dahlke from the Institute for Infectious Diseases at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf stressedThe long-term immune protection is not only based on the antibodies: “If you have antibody levels that cannot be measured, breakthrough infections can occur. But there are still the T cells and the memory cells: They can in a very short time raise the antibodies back to a level so that the virus is fought again and the body is protected. “

This is also confirmed by the researcher Reinhold Förster. But he also says the problem with Corona is that you are exposed to a large amount of pathogens that settle in the upper area of ​​the throat, where there are not as many protective antibodies. In addition, very old people in particular may have developed little or no immune response to the vaccination and are either not protected at all or no longer protected.

Recommended in Germany from 70 years

The Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) recommends since the beginning of OctoberTo re-vaccinate people over the age of 70. The vaccination campaign, however, is slow. So far have been loud RKI figures (as of October 20, 2021) about 1.35 million people in Germany receive a booster vaccination. The number is increasing slowly – on October 6th the number was 925,000, on October 13th it was 1.16 million. Given that there are well over ten million people over the age of 70, their third vaccination could take a long time.

Other states start earlier with the “booster shots”: Israel offers all citizens a third vaccination. According to a media report, the US FDA is about to announce recommendations on Covid-19 booster vaccinations for people aged 40 and over.

Lithuania offers boosters for everyone

In Lithuania, all adults can be protected against the virus with a “booster shot”. The only requirement is that the last vaccination was more than six months ago. Denmark recently a program for “revaccination” introduced and announced that there should be a booster vaccination for all; Initially, the authorities would write to everyone over 65 and people from risk groups and invite them to the third vaccination. In addition, more than 85 percent of all people over the age of twelve have already been vaccinated twice in the Scandinavian country.

In the UK, in view of the high numbers of infections and patients, are calling for the vaccination campaign to be accelerated. They point out that many older people had already been vaccinated from December 2020 – and the protection is now likely to diminish or no longer exist.

Also the European Medicines Agency EMA already spoke for booster vaccinations for people of age. The booster shots for people aged 18 and over are suitable with an interval of at least six months from the second dose.

Many countries in Africa have completely different concerns have almost never had a vaccine at all, while in Russia, the USA and some European countries parts of the population oppose vaccination or consider it unnecessary.

“New recommendation unavoidable”

With reference to Germany, says Reinhold Förster from the Medical University of Hanover, in his opinion it will be “inevitable to include younger people in the vaccination recommendation”. This year, people aged 60 and over, maybe even 50, should get a booster vaccination.

In addition, the need for a third vaccination should be communicated more strongly, as many older people would not have seen the need for the first vaccination. Förster fears that after a relatively mild beginning of autumn there will be rising case numbers and more vaccination breakthroughs in the coming weeks – and only then will the topic come back into focus.

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