Anyone who wants to be boosted is now spoiled for choice. Because after the approval of the new Omikron vaccines at the beginning of September, the green light was also given for the Omikron BA.5 booster. What you need to know now.

The course in the fight against corona seems to have been set in time for a possible autumn wave: On the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency EMA, the European Commission has now approved another vaccine adapted to Omicron: the vaccine from Biontech/ which is effective against BA.4/BA.5 Pfizer.

“We know that Covid is still a threat. That’s why we approved the vaccine on the recommendation of the EMA,” tweeted EU President Ursula von der Leyen. “This will help us to be safer in winter”.

The boosters from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna that were adapted to BA.1 were already approved on September 1st. However, these are adapted to the Omikron variant BA.1, which practically no longer occurs. BA.5 has been dominating worldwide for months.

For many people who want to be vaccinated, the range of different boosters is totally confusing. Which one should you take now? The most important questions and answers at a glance:

Similar to the two booster vaccines from Moderna and Biontech/Pfizer, which were already approved on September 1st, the vaccine adapted to BA.4/BA.5 is also a bivalent vaccine: This means that it is not only works against the wild type of Sars-CoV-2, but also specifically against the now dominant variant BA.5.

The omicron boosters, which were approved two weeks ago, are also effective against the wild type, but have also been adapted to the formerly dominant BA.1 variant. In terms of composition, however, the BA.4/BA.5 booster is exactly the same as the BA.1 booster – only that it has been adapted to the dominant variant. According to Biontech, apart from the addition of the mRNA sequence of the BA.4/BA.5 spike protein, all other components of the vaccine remained unchanged.

The Biontech/Pfizer vaccine BA.4/BA.5 vaccine is intended for use in people aged 12 and over who have received at least one primary vaccination course against Covid-19. This vaccine, like the BA.1 booster, is an adapted version of Biontech/Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine, which has been approved since 2020.

Since BA.1 is hardly ever detected in Germany and other countries, but BA.5 has dominated here for some time, the active ingredient adapted to this variant is probably more effective.

According to the EMA, the approval of the BA.4/BA.5 vaccine is based, among other things, on the available data on the BA.1 vaccine approved in September. These showed that the BA.1 vaccine was more effective against BA.1 compared to the original Biontech/Pfizer vaccine.

According to Biontech/Pfizer, preclinical data also showed that a booster vaccination with the bivalent Omicron BA.4/BA.5 matched vaccine produced strong neutralizing antibody responses against currently known Omicron subvariants including

The approved BA.1 vaccines, which have been vaccinated by general practitioners and vaccination centers since this week, are also effective against BA.5. Carsten Watzl, Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology, pointed to clinical data on the BA.1 vaccines that were tested on several hundred subjects. The antibody reactions were compared with a control group that had received the previous vaccine a fourth time. “We saw significantly more antibodies against the omicron variant in people with the adapted vaccine – in young people, old people and those who have recovered,” said Watzl.

Percentages of effectiveness, as there are for the first Covid 19 vaccines, are not yet available. Because data on the actual protection against symptomatic infection, serious illness and death can only be expected from the application, Watzl said. The aim is better protection against omicron – and above all against the disease. Because protection against infection will only be temporary after vaccination, explained the immunologist.

The studies on the new vaccine are not yet complete, but according to the EMA, the side effects are comparable to those observed with Comirnaty, the original primary immunization vaccine. This is supported by data from investigational vaccines targeting other variants, which have also demonstrated similar safety profiles and predictable immune responses against the strains they target.

According to a press release from Biontech/Pfizer, the vaccine adapted to BA.4/BA.5 is available for all 27 EU member states and could already support the vaccination campaign in the next few days. When the new vaccine will be available in Germany is still unclear. Therefore, according to experts, people who need a booster should not wait until the new BA.4/BA.5 vaccine is available here and get refreshed with the available boosters, which also show protection against BA.5.

So far, Stiko has not issued any recommendation for the new Omikron boosters – neither for the vaccines adapted to BA.1 nor for the now approved BA.4/BA.5 vaccine. According to Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach, the Stiko is already working on adapted recommendations.

Stiko is currently recommending a second booster with the vaccines that have not yet been adapted to Omikron for people aged 60 and over and people aged 5 and over with an increased risk of a severe course due to previous illnesses. A time interval of six months to the last vaccination or the last infection should be observed.