High recall rate in Germany: what we are currently doing better than other countries

Updated Jan. 12, 2022, 1:16 p.m.

  • More than 40 percent of Germans have already received a third vaccine.
  • The booster protects against the development of serious illness and reduces the risk of infection.
  • In countries with high double vaccination rates, Omikron infections are on the rise again.

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In Germany, 71.9% of the population is fully vaccinated. A total of 42.0% also received a vaccination booster (as of January 11, 2022). With this quota, the country is doing well in a European comparison.

Denmark and Great Britain lead the pack with over 50 percent, followed by Austria and Germany with over 40 percent. Countries like Portugal and Spain, which have very high immunization rates of almost 90 and 82 percent respectively, are making slower progress with the booster. Here, only about 33 percent have been vaccinated three times.

The recall campaign in Germany is in full swing, in part thanks to the efforts of the federal government. “Sufficient vaccines have been purchased and the necessary infrastructure for vaccination has been created,” emphasizes Reinhold Förster, vice-president of the German Society for Immunology and director of the Institute of Immunology at the Faculty of Medicine in Hanover. . “Here, we actively took care of those who wanted to vaccinate, who accepted the offer in large numbers.”

Since September, 35.6 million people (as of January 11, 2022) have received the third vaccination, but one problem is the relatively low number of first vaccinations (74.6% of the population). According to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, ten million people could be vaccinated every week for the next few weeks. According to a model from the Robert Koch Institute, the goal is that more than 80% of people vaccinated twice are also boosted. In purely mathematical terms, this would represent 56% of the population.

High recall rate is important in the fight against Omikron

In many countries the omicron variant is predominant. Some experts call the new corona wave a wall because the incidence is increasing very sharply. “In some countries the numbers are very high, such as England, Ireland or the United States,” Reinhold Förster explains.

“In Germany we are much later with the Omikron wave than other countries. On the one hand, strict precautionary measures such as contact limits are applied to us due to the high delta wave, d ‘on the other hand we boosted relatively quickly. This can protect us now from the great wave, as we are already seeing in other countries “, explains the expert.” But it is also possible that the great omicron wave does not reach us. than with a time lag. “

Triple vaccination plays an important role in the fight against Omikron. Stimulation halves the risk of contracting an Omikron patient, according to virologist Christian Drosten.

In comparison, with the delta variant, the double vaccination already leads to reducing the risk by more than half, with the triple vaccination the risk of infection is reduced to almost a third. Current figures show that the booster vaccination controls transmission in the population.

Cooling improves protection against serious illness

According to the RKI, data on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination, especially with mRNA vaccines in terms of protection against the omicron variant, comes mainly from England. They document an effect of vaccination after the completion of the baseline immunization (two doses), whereby protection against the new variant is 20 to 30 percent less than that before the delta variant and further decreases in a few weeks. This is especially true for protection against mild infections.

Protection against COVID-19 disease requiring hospitalization due to the Omikron variant was 72% in England during the period of two to 24 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine. A booster vaccination can increase the specific efficacy of Omikron both in terms of protection against mild illnesses by 70-80% and against illnesses requiring hospitalization by 88%.

Probable fourth vaccination

Even with a booster vaccination, the current variant of Omikron is not completely intercepted. The virus can still spread. There is also a risk of new viral variants against which the current vaccine does not work enough. In this context, Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach believes that a fourth vaccination is very likely.

“The triple vaccination in particular currently offers very good protection against serious diseases,” says Förster. “Over time, however, the number of antibodies and T cells decreases and the question arises as to how well we are still protected against serious infections by the booster after a few months. If the effect wears off , a fourth vaccination may be necessary. “

It remains to be seen whether this should be offered nationally or whether only vulnerable groups or healthcare workers should receive a fourth vaccination. It also strongly depends on the existence of new suitable vaccines and their degree of protection.

Doubly vaccinated population not protected against infection

Some countries like Portugal or Spain have a particularly high vaccination rate for the first and second vaccinations. Over 80 percent of the population here are vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine. “In these countries, you can now see that the vaccine protection is not enough to protect against infections with the Omikron variant,” said Förster.

Due to the high frequency of double vaccinations, countries were armed against the delta variant and there were hardly any measures such as contact limits. “There is now no protection against the Omikron variant and there are many more infections.” In contrast, Germany currently has an advantage, as many restrictions have applied from the delta variant and many people have already been boosted.

About the expert: Prof. Dr. Reinhold Foerster is vice-president of the German Society for Immunology and director of the Institute of Immunology at the Faculty of Medicine in Hanover.

Sources used:

  • Interview with Professor Reinhold Förster, Vice-President of the German Society for Immunology. (on 1/11/22)
  • Written request to the Robert Koch Institute, press service
  • Written request to the Federal Ministry of Health, Press Service
  • Vaccination dashboard of the Federal Ministry of Health: “Current vaccination status”
  • Our world in data. “COVID-19 vaccine boosters administered per 100 people”.
  • Coronavirus episode 107 update podcast with Christian Drosten
  • British Health Safety Agency. “Omicron VOC-21NOV-01 (B.1.1.529) technical brief: hospitalization and vaccine efficacy. ”

Virologist Christian Drosten considers the booster vaccination to be the most effective weapon in the fight against the rapidly spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus. “What really protects against Omikron is the triple vaccination,” the Berlin Charity scientist said Tuesday in NDR-Info’s “Coronavirus Update” podcast. Therefore, the emphasis on booster vaccinations in Germany is fair and important. Photo credit: images imago

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