Drosten: COVID booster shots unnecessary for majority of German population

Drosten: COVID booster shots unnecessary for majority of German population

The prominent German virologist Christian Drosten has said he believes it unnecessary to administer COVID booster shots nationwide this autumn, although top-up jabs could be beneficial for some. 

Booster shots only necessary for at-risk groups, says Drosten

With all of Germany’s federal states preparing the ground to start offering booster shots this autumn, and the US planning to roll them out nationwide, Drosten has spoken out to say he thinks the move is largely unnecessary. “The protective effect of the corona vaccines is much better than, for example, the influenza vaccines,” he said, adding that he does not expect a new vaccine-resistant variant of COVID-19 to appear anytime soon. 

However, Drosten said that it did make sense to offer a booster vaccination to elderly people and certain high-risk patients. “After six months, the antibody level acquired through vaccination goes down significantly, especially in very old people,” he said. For this reason, it makes sense to refresh vaccinations for certain groups, and then, for the rest of the population, set an age limit beyond which a booster shot would make sense. 

Focus should be on first vaccinations - in Germany and abroad

The idea of rolling out a third jab has attracted some vocal criticism, on the basis that some developing countries have so far barely been able to source the supplies to administer a first vaccination, let alone a third one - but Drosten said that the tactic of offering booster shots to at-risk groups only would hardly conflict with the international shortage of vaccines. 

He added that, before Germany thinks about offering boosters, it needs to first focus on finishing the rollout of the first wave of vaccinations: “It is important to first close the vaccination gaps among those over 60 years of age,” he said. 

This makes sense because the majority of coronavirus patients in German hospitals are currently unvaccinated, according to intensive care doctor Christian Karagiannidis. He told the Funke media group that around 12 to 13 percent of COVID patients in hospital in North Rhine-Westphalia have some level of vaccine protection, while the rest are unvaccinated. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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ZiggyStardust2 21:59 | 19 August 2021

Sorry, but this statement smells as full of politics. The most relevant evidence with respect to whether or not to give a third dose come, at the moment, from Israel, where up until a couple of days ago we were experiencing a steep increase in infections and, most importantly, in severe disease and deaths, including of vaccinated people. The belief of the Israeli experts was that this is caused primarily because of a steep decline in immunity levels (at least in terms of antibody titers) - which was seen among those who got the 2nd shot ~5-6 months ago (which are indeed mostly the elderly, but that doesn't meant it won't be the case with younger people as well) - and, although it is still early, so far the decision to give a third shot to those aged 50+ seems like a life-saver. Literally. In fact, the data is promising enough (a side-effect profile similar or even slightly better than that seen after the second dose, plus preliminary evidence of strong efficacy) that the Israeli vaccine committee decided today to give a 3rd dose also to all those over 40 (as well as to health workers, teachers etc.), and it seems likely that within no more than a few weeks they'll open it up to everyone, so long as at least 5 months passed since getting the 2nd shot. Germany must learn from Israel's experience and avoid having uncessary deaths. Israel had to wait before deciding on giving the third shot, because it was something no one tested before - but now that Israel has tested it (and on a massive scale of more than 1.2 million people who got the third shot so far, with the number rising significantly every day), Germany can save the lives of its citizens by offering everyone whose 2nd shot was ~5-6 months ago a third shot, so that they'd stay as protected as they were e.g. a month after getting the 2nd shot.