Member of Stiko: Boosters preferably with adapted preparations

Several advanced corona vaccines have recently been approved in the EU. Photo: Bernd Weißbrod / dpa

According to committee member Christian Bogdan, the Standing Committee on Vaccinations (Stiko) wants to recommend the use of new preparations adapted to Omikron for booster vaccinations. As the scientist from the University Hospital in Erlangen announced, the current criteria for administering the first and second booster doses will not change for the time being.

This means that, for example, the panel believes that four shot vaccinations are still considered necessary only for certain groups, such as those aged 60 and over and those living in nursing homes.

Official announcement expected

As reported by the Science Media Center (SMC) news network, the official announcement of the draft vaccine recommendation should be published on (today) Tuesday (September 20). Therefore, it will not be the final recommendation of Stiko yet. Changes are still possible.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) rated Stiko’s vote on Twitter as an important contribution to overcoming the pandemic. For example, many older people are not yet sufficiently protected against omicron variants. “For them, vaccination can prevent severe events and LongCovid.”

Several advanced corona vaccines have been approved in the European Union over the past few weeks. They take into account the omicron variant that has been dominant for months. It can be used in people 12 years of age and older as a booster vaccination. These are preparations adapted to the BA.1 subline and a slightly newer BA.4 / BA.5 vaccine. In addition to Omikron, the new vaccines also include the original coronavirus. Targets are a better immune response against omicron and refreshment over the so-called wild type.

Bogdan said that Stiko in his decision did not distinguish between BA.1 vaccines and the newer BA.4 / BA.5 formulations. The relatively rare data situation was therefore difficult for the expert panel. This is particularly true of the newer BA.4 / BA.5 formulation “Stiko is” not very happy “that there are no human data available, said Bogdan. For approval, authorities relied essentially on data from experiments in mice, but also on findings with precursor vaccines. Experts speak of a better situation for the BA.1 vaccine data compared to BA.4 / BA.5, and there are also conclusions from human studies.

Put the pieces of the puzzle together and draw conclusions by analogy, criticized Stiko member Jörg Meerpohl, director of the Institute of Evidence in Medicine at Freiburg University Hospital. But you have to live with what you have. Bogdan stressed that, given the extensive experience with previous vaccines against Covid-19, no problem should be expected.

Corona stays with adapted vaccines

The virus cannot be eradicated from Germany even with adapted vaccines, Bogdan said. The goal of vaccinations is to prevent serious illness, inpatient treatment and death from corona infection. It is not, however, about keeping the incidence low or preventing harmless infections. In the meantime, a situation has arisen where there is “very good baseline immunity in the population”.

Immunologically healthy people under the age of 60 with the recommended three vaccinations do not need a fourth vaccination for now, Bogdan said. Even a past infection should be assessed as vaccination.

Experts advise to use the available preparations if a booster dose is needed and not delay the step due to the supposedly better, newer vaccine. Otherwise, you risk getting sick in the meantime. Despite the planned recommendation, the current Covid 19 vaccines may still be used. Bogdan emphasized that all existing vaccines protect very well against serious diseases. Along with the new preparations, it is a matter of preparing for the next Omikron sublines that may arise in the future.

The effectiveness of the adapted vaccines will also depend on which variants will prevail in the coming weeks and months. This cannot be predicted yet. According to data from a random sample, BA.4 and BA.5 now cause the vast majority of infections nationwide, while BA.1 has long played no role.

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