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.
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.