The third vaccination – is it really necessary to be protected against Corona? Who should get vaccinated? In this interview, Prof. Schulz answers questions about the third vaccination as protection against Corona.

Prof. Schulz, do we need a third vaccination? And if so, for whom and when?

Yes. In principle, for everyone whose second vaccination is more than six months ago. And, this is not surprising; some other vaccines also have to be administered three times to achieve good protection. Hopefully this will increase the immune response and protection against infection with, and illness from, SARS-CoV-2.

Who should definitely get vaccinated for the third time?

According to the current STIKO recommendation, the booster vaccination is recommended for people who are older than 70 years and / or who live in a nursing home or care facility, work in the care sector, have direct patient contact or who can be assumed to have a compromised immune system. In addition, people who have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, which is only given once. One of the mRNA vaccine should be used for the booster. Since the beginning of October 2021, the Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer) vaccine has been licensed for booster vaccination of people over 18 years of age.

Does anyone know if there is an increase in vaccine breakthroughs with certain vaccines? If so, some people would have to hurry up with the third vaccination…

For the Janssen vaccine (only one dose), a booster vaccination is recommended. For the other vaccines used in Germany, it is assumed that they work about equally well. The mRNA vaccines (Moderna, BioNTech) may give slightly better protection against the Delta variant than the Astra Zeneca vaccine, but the difference is not so great that a booster recommendation would have been made especially for this vaccine.

Is there anything against the third vaccination and what about side effects of booster shots?

No, there is nothing against the third vaccination – except for the (very rare) restrictions that also apply to the first and second vaccination.
There are probably similar side effects as with the first and second vaccination.

What study results are there on the effect of the third vaccination in terms of better protection against infection and thus transmission or against severe courses?

For example, there is a published study* that showed that people over 60 years of age who had received their second vaccination at least five months earlier were about ten times better protected against infection with SARS-CoV-2 and about 20 times better protected against COVID-19 disease after a booster vaccination with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine than a control group that had not yet received the booster vaccination.

Even if a 2+1 strategy is ideal, wouldn’t it have to be weighed against the fact that in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, most have not even received two vaccinations?

In Germany, we are currently seeing that, due to the rapidly increasing number of infections, even vaccinated older people, whose first and second vaccinations often took place more than six months ago, are being infected more frequently again and can sometimes become seriously ill. It is therefore absolutely necessary to reinforce vaccination protection in this group of people. The same applies to people who work in direct contact with patients or those in need of care and are therefore exposed to a higher risk of infection. We are also currently seeing that the burden on hospitals will again increase very strongly in the next few weeks due to the high infection figures (unfortunately, the majority of these infections occur in people who are not yet vaccinated). So, unfortunately, we are not in a situation where we could do without the booster vaccination and rather give the vaccine to low- and middle-income countries.

Thank you very much for the interview.