German virologist Drosten says top-up Covid shot may be needed in autumn

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten expects that booster jabs against Covid-19 may be necessary for some people in autumn this year.

German virologist Drosten says top-up Covid shot may be needed in autumn
People waiting outside a vaccination centre in Dresden. Photo: DPA

The Charité virologist said it could be the case in Germany that “more than just very narrowly defined risk groups” will receive a booster injection ahead of the winter season, in a similar way to the annual flu vaccination.

Vaccines that have been updated to protect against new variants could probably be used then, he discussed on the Coronavirus Update podcast.

Drosten said a booster shot will likely be needed because certain antibodies on the mucous membranes of those who have recovered from Covid-19, and those who have been vaccinated, weaken over time.

It’s still a grey area, however – as it is not yet known how long the mucosal protection lasts after a coronavirus vaccination.

But within limits, even vaccinated people can contribute to the transmission of the virus again after a certain amount of time following their jabs, he said. It’s still unclear how efficient this transmission is.

Scientists across the world have been discussing whether booster shots are needed after the initial protection.

Studies so far paint a picture of what happens relatively shortly after people are inoculated – when vaccinated people have built up optimal immune protection, Drosten said.

After a few months, the picture will change. “Then these vaccines will probably not look as resilient in terms of passing on the virus.” He added that this should be taken into account, but it should also not cause shock.

He explained that with respiratory diseases, the situation is different than with measles, for example, and immunity against such mucosal viruses is not lifelong.

Drosten stressed that no-one should worry that the pandemic will never end, though.

“What we are seeing here are quite normal observations that we also expect while such a virus is settling in and on its way to becoming endemic,” he said.

By April 27th Germany had administered at least one dose to 23.9 percent of the population. A total of 7.3 percent of people – around six million people – are fully inoculated with both doses.

IN NUMBERS: Is Germany ramping up the Covid-19 vaccine rollout?

The German government plans to give fully vaccinated people, and those who have recovered from Covid, some basic rights back. However, some states are already easing Covid rules for vaccinated people ahead of the government’s planned schedule.

Member comments

  1. This guy is too used to publicity and he wants to stay always on the news so he wont let the covid die and he will keep on fear-mongering 🙁

    1. He is simply telling things how they are. Corona is a very mutable Virus and his action have been very good.

      This is not fear mongering, qnd Corona will not go away.

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.