In the first part of this interview, immunologist Andreas Radbruch recommended vaccines to be used “like any other drug: targeted and economical.” The second part discusses the reasons why some people recommend only the fourth mRNA vaccine.
If the German health minister gets his way, people under the age of 60 should also be vaccinated for the fourth time. Does it bother you?
What worries me is that when we vaccinate again and again with vaccines that are “matched” to this variant, we match the immune system very tightly to the original variant of the virus. There are preliminary signs that the immune system is no longer responding as well to new variants of the virus the more often it has been “trained” on the original one.
Is the immune system “blunted” by too many of the same vaccinations, so to speak?
Basically it is. The study compared people who had the crown at the start of the pandemic and then received three more vaccinations from those who had only received three vaccinations. When “Omicron” came out, it could be seen that the immune system of the first group had lost its flexibility. It was too potent under the original virus variant, was less adaptable to the new variant, and did not produce any special antibodies against the omicron.
“When it comes to vaccinations, a lot doesn’t necessarily help.”
Andreas Radbruch, immunologist
In March 2022 you will have one for the German Bundestag opinion handed over and spoke out against compulsory vaccinations. They write in it that vaccinating twice or recovering once is better than vaccinating three times “in order to preserve the adaptability of immune memory.” Reflecting on this, would it mean that people who had been vaccinated four times might be worse off if a new, bad variant of the virus emerged?
Yes, it is unthinkable. When vaccinating, much does not necessarily help a lot. Rather than vaccinating four times now, it may be better for most people to wait with a booster until a seriously ill, new virus variant appears, and then the vaccine is adapted, and an effective one is also adopted.
It was initially promised that if a new variant emerged, adapted mRNA vaccines would be available within 12 weeks. Omicron has been going wild since last December and we are still waiting for adapted vaccines. Did you promise too much?
Experiments in monkeys showed that the Moderna vaccine adapted to the Omicron did not perform better than the original vaccine. So he had no advantage. Therefore, for most people, it’s worth waiting for the customized vaccines to come out that will yield more.
To the person
Professor Andreas Radbruch is Scientific Director of the German Center for Research on Rheumatism in Berlin. The 69-year-old, award-winning immunologist has been studying the immune system’s response to pathogens and vaccines for over 40 years. Andreas Radbruch has been professor of experimental rheumatology at the Humboldt University in Berlin since 1998. Formerly president of the German Immunological Society, he is now vice president of the Federation of European Immunological Societies and a member of the German Leopoldine (National Academy of Sciences) – to name just a few of his many functions.
For childhood flu, live vaccines containing all the components of the virus are preferred. So far, however, there is no live vaccine against Sars-CoV-2. Based on these considerations, would it make sense to let children get through Covid infection so that their immune system would also be better prepared for any variants of the virus that might show up later?
Deliberately infecting unvaccinated persons with Covid-19 makes no sense to anyone. The virus is a very good “vaccine”, but it also tries to deceive us. It suppresses the immune system and causes “Long Covid”, even in young people. And while older people already have some kind of pre-immunity due to “cross-reactive” memory T cells, younger people usually don’t. It would be better for children to be vaccinated as recommended by Stiko to establish this basal immunity.
“From an immunological point of view, the three vaccinations plus Sars-CoV-2 infection are like the fourth” superantigen “vaccination.
Andreas Radbruch, immunologist
Can people who have already been vaccinated three times and now receive Omicron consider themselves four vaccinations?
From an immunological point of view, the three vaccinations plus Sars-CoV-2 infection are like the fourth “superantigen” vaccination. The virus is much better than a vaccine because it contains many more different antigens for the immune system to respond to.
Nevertheless, the authorities did not classify the recovered status as being equivalent to “fully vaccinated”.
As far as we know, most people who recover are immune for life in the sense that they no longer get seriously ill. Recovery is at least as good as vaccinating twice. Reclaimers also have more of these plasma cells in the bone marrow. For example, I cannot understand the instructions of the German Robert Koch Institute to reduce the convalescence period to three months.
Hypotheses as to why more vaccinated people get sick in some studies
It can be seen in various vaccination studies that the effect of vaccination after the first vaccination appears to “do a little dive” and becomes negative after a few months. This would mean that more vaccinated people would fall ill than unvaccinated people. How it’s possible?
We don’t know that. There are only hypotheses about this. One is that people who have been vaccinated behave differently, such as more carelessly, and are therefore more susceptible to infection. Another hypothesis is that the immune system is temporarily “depressed” after an immune response. This may also be the case after vaccinations against Covid.
Are there more findings now as to why some people get seriously ill with Covid and others hardly ever?
We are immunologically very different. Our immune system is as individual as a fingerprint. Therefore, no pathogen can catch us all equally. For example, some people make lots of very good antibodies to a specific antigen, others only very little. Many people have memory T cells in their blood from previous encounters with cold viruses or other antigens that also recognize Sars-CoV-2 and can worsen the disease. On the other hand, others are immunodeficient, their immune systems paralyzed.
Identify those at risk
What’s going on here?
About 4% of people over the age of 70 have antibodies in their blood against the body’s own interferon. Interferons activate our viral defenses, including against SARS-CoV-2. These autoantibodies lead to immunodeficiency against all viruses. Among Covid patients in intensive care there are many such people with anti-interferon antibodies, approximately ten to twenty percent of patients have such autoantibodies.
Could such anti-interferon antibodies be used to identify people at high risk?
Yes, that’s what it is. There are other indicators as well. Sars-CoV-2 stimulates the production of a messenger substance called TGF-Beta in infected cells in the body. It is a messenger substance that also suppresses our viral defenses. TGF-Beta prevents immune cells from eliminating SARS-CoV-2 infected cells. It is an important defense mechanism. If the virus manages to produce enough TGF-beta, there is a high probability that the infected person will end up in intensive care.
Thank you for the interview, Professor Radbruch.
Author’s thematic interests
The opinions in the articles on Infosperber correspond to the personal judgments of the author.