The Omikron variants BA.4 and BA.5 could soon displace the currently predominant BA.2 variant. But how well are vaccinated people protected against infection or a severe course? A new study has now investigated this.

Week after week, they make up proportionately more infections: the omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 are spreading in Germany.

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The Ohio State University researchers compared the efficacy of double and triple vaccinees against variants BA.4 and BA.5, as well as against another, BA.2.12.1. In doing so, they found:

“The booster vaccination delivered sufficient neutralizing antibody titers against the subvariants BA.4/5 and BA.2.12.1, albeit to a lesser extent than against BA.1 and BA.2,” the scientists summarize their results. These “underline the importance of the booster vaccination to protect against newly emerging variants,” it said.

Three doses are therefore better than two – but there is currently a discussion as to whether people do not all need a fourth vaccination to be even better protected against a severe course.

The Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) has so far only recommended such a program for certain groups, including

As with any medical measure, there must be a justified medical indication behind a general recommendation for a further booster vaccination, said Stiko chairman Thomas Mertens. The assumption “a lot helps a lot” cannot be the guiding principle here. “Politicians’ willingness to act is an essential element of policy-making, but the resulting actions must, as far as possible, be verified before they are implemented.”

Other experts are backing Stiko. The Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology, Carsten Watzl, announced that he currently saw no need for a general recommendation for a fourth vaccination. For people with a healthy immune system, the protection against serious illness is still very high more than six months after the third vaccination.

According to Watzl, anyone who wants to can be vaccinated a fourth time – even without falling under the Stiko recommendation – in order to bring the immune protection back to the level it was shortly after the third vaccination . This does not harm and one does not obstruct anything in relation to a possible fifth vaccination with a vaccine adapted to Omicron.

Whether and when there will be a general recommendation for the fourth vaccination remains to be seen.

Experts firmly believe that BA.4 and especially BA.5 will soon dominate in Germany. “We know that omicron is very contagious. The BA.2 variant is currently predominant with us and BA.5 is a tick more contagious and that’s why BA.5 can also prevail with us”, Watzl recently assessed the situation in an interview with “Bayern 2”. He explained, he I therefore expect comparatively high incidences in summer.

Virologist Martin Stürmer is also expecting the next wave of infections in the coming months. However, this should not be as pronounced as last autumn and winter, he told the “Hessenschau”.

And virologist Sandra Ciesek also recently stated on Twitter that she assumes that the BA.5 variant will prevail here sooner or later. However, the same could also apply to its sister variant BA.4.

It is not yet possible to say when the variants could become dominant. But World Medical Director Frank Ulrich Montgomery also told the “Rheinische Post” that he assumed that BA.5 in particular would soon prevail here. Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach also considers this to be realistic. The two variants are “on the rise,” he recently wrote on Twitter. “This could be the next wave in the fall.”