As of: September 20, 2023 4:36 p.m
The number of cases is increasing because the new Corona variants are highly contagious. A vaccine adapted to the current XBB.1.5 variant is now available. Who should get vaccinated with it?
Vaccination with the new booster from Biontech is now possible. The preparation is specifically adapted to the currently circulating omicron subline XBB.1.5, but is also said to be effective against other current variants, including the subline EG.5 (“Eris”). The seven-day incidence across Germany is currently at a low level at seven Covid-19 cases per week and per 100,000 inhabitants. Since testing is no longer mandatory and there are no longer official test centers, the actual corona numbers are estimated to be higher. Even if there is no longer a requirement to isolate, experts advise everyone who is infected to stay at home for at least five days.
Booster vaccination against Corona: What does Stiko recommend?
According to the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), a booster vaccination with the new vaccine adapted to the currently circulating variant XBB.1.5 is currently recommended for everyone who is 60 years old or older or who belongs to a risk group. This includes all people aged six months and over who are at particular risk of a severe course of Covid-19 due to an underlying illness. The booster vaccination should be repeated annually, ideally in autumn. In addition, according to the Stiko recommendation, residents of nursing homes and employees in the care and health sector should receive boosters.
The Stiko currently recommends a so-called basic immunization for all healthy people between the ages of 18 and 59. This means they should experience at least three “immunological events.” At least two of these events should be vaccinations, the third event can be a corona infection or a third vaccination. According to Stiko, further booster vaccinations are not necessary for this group. The two vaccinations against the corona virus should be given three to six weeks apart. Full vaccination protection occurs around 14 days after the second vaccination.
No more Stiko vaccination recommendations for children and young people
Unlike last year, there is no longer a Stiko recommendation for corona vaccination for healthy children and young people.
According to the current Stiko recommendation from May 2023, healthy children and young people do not need a Covid vaccination. This also applies to newborns up to six months. They could initially benefit from the mother’s so-called “nest protection”, provided she already has basic immunity. Babies from six months of age as well as children and young people under the age of 18 who belong to a risk group due to an underlying illness should be vaccinated and have their vaccination refreshed regularly, recommends Stiko.
This is what Stiko recommends (recommendation from May 25, 2023)
Basic immunity against Covid-19 for everyone aged 18 and up to 59 years:
through three antigen contacts (vaccination or infection), including at least two vaccine doses Children and young people under 18 years:
no vaccination recommendation. Exception: children and young people with underlying illnessesBooster vaccination (Booster):
for all people aged 60 and over for all people aged six months and over who belong to a risk group. These include people with a weakened immune system, with previous illnesses such as diabetes mellitus or trisomy 21 or people in nursing homes. People who work in the medical field or nursing and therefore have an increased risk of infection. The booster should be repeated every twelve months, preferably in autumn .
Flu vaccination is recommended
For the upcoming autumn and winter, doctors such as the CEO of the German Hospital Association (DKG), Gerald Gaß, also recommend flu vaccination. “For the fall and winter, we assume that, like last year, there will be further catch-up effects from other respiratory diseases,” he told the “Rheinische Post”. Healthcare workers, high-risk patients and their relatives in particular should keep their Corona and flu (influenza) vaccination status up to date. A high-dose flu vaccine that works against four virus strains is recommended, especially for people over 60 and people with underlying illnesses. The higher dose is intended to stimulate the immune system more, as it often reacts weaker to vaccinations in old age. This can lead to slightly more severe local side effects, such as swelling in the arm.
Corona booster vaccines from Biontech and Moderna
The most recently approved Biontech vaccine is adapted to the XBB.1.5 subline and is also said to be effective against the Omicron variant EG.5, which is also circulating. It is still unclear whether the vaccine also works against the latest virus type called BA 2.86, which has been detected in Switzerland, Denmark and Great Britain, among others.
The manufacturers Biontech and Moderna have already adapted their mRNA vaccines several times since 2022 in order to increase the effectiveness against the Corona variant Omicron and its various sublines – including the sublines BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5.
14 million vaccine doses expected from Biontech
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, around 14 million doses of the adapted vaccine from Biontech will be available for corona vaccinations in autumn and winter. Subject to approval by the European Commission, 10.6 million doses of the adapted vaccine from the manufacturer Novavax are also expected. They are expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2023. According to the ministry, there is still no approval for the adapted vaccine from Moderna. If it is available and Moderna decides to offer it as part of regular care, the vaccine will also be paid for by the health insurance company if doctors prescribe it as part of the Stiko recommendation.
Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Valneva: More vaccines against Corona
In addition to the two mRNA vaccines from Biontech and Moderna, the vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson (vaccine Jcovden, formerly Janssen), the protein-based vaccine Nuvaxovid from Novavax and the inactivated vaccine from Valneva are vaccinated in Germany. AstraZeneca’s vector vaccine is no longer available in the EU.
Biontech and Moderna: How do the mRNA vaccines work?
The vaccines from Biontech and Moderna are produced using genetic engineering. The mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) is the “blueprint” for every single protein in the human body. mRNA vaccines against Corona contain the “blueprint” for only part of the virus: the spike protein on the outer shell. This protein is non-infectious, so it does not transmit the disease.
The body breaks down the mRNA contained in the vaccine in a few days; it does not enter the human genetic material, the DNA. The muscle cells around the vaccination site multiply the spike protein. The immune system of the vaccinated person recognizes them as foreign bodies, activates defense cells and forms antibodies against the spike protein of the coronavirus and defense cells. If an infection occurs later, the body recognizes the spike protein and fights it.
This is how vector vaccines work
Vector vaccines such as the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer vaccinated in Germany, and the Jcovden (formerly Janssen) vaccine from Johnson & Johnson are based on a different principle than mRNA vaccines, but are also based on genetic engineering. A virus that is harmless to humans and cannot reproduce transports the spike protein of the coronavirus. The transport substance – the vector virus – is broken down in the body in a short time. The spike protein triggers the same process as with mRNA vaccines and thus leads to vaccination protection.
The body breaks down vaccines
So-called long-term consequences of vaccination, i.e. side effects that only appear many months or years after vaccination, are not known for vaccines, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute. Most side effects occur within a few hours or a few days after a vaccination, in rare cases after weeks or a few months. The current Covid-19 vaccines have now been vaccinated millions, sometimes even billions of times, and their side effects – even the very rare ones – are now well known, according to the institute. In addition, the vaccine breaks down in the body after just a few days, but the immune system has “remembered” which cells it has to act against in the future.
Experts on the topic
Internist/Infectious disease specialist
1. Medical clinic and polyclinic
Academic teaching and research practice at the University of Lübeck
Kronsforder Allee 17
Head of Viral Immunology Department
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NDR Info | Sep 18, 2023 | 11:26 a.m