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How will the body react to the third vaccination shot? (Findings on booster vaccination)

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With the Delta variant running rampant, it is inevitable that a third vaccination shot will be required for many. But how will the body react to it?

“Inevitably, everyone will need a third vaccination,” says US immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci.

But what do we even know about the third vaccination? What does the so-called booster vaccination do to our body? And how is the situation in Germany? Below is a summary of the most important findings!

third vaccination

The need for a third vaccination shot

Immunologist Fauci has no doubt about the need for a third vaccination. The only question is when, the expert told the American broadcaster NBC. His institute observes and examines the decline in the protective effect very carefully in order to find out when the third spade is due for which group of people, he explained.

German experts currently see this need primarily in immunodeficient people. There are two groups that need a third vaccination because they have shown a weak immune reaction:

  • the elderly
  • people in whom the immune system’s reaction has been severely restricted or suppressed for therapeutic reasons. These include a number of cancer and rheumatism patients

At the last ministerial conference of the federal and state governments, it was therefore decided to offer booster vaccinations from September – for those groups of people with an increased risk of a severe course. This applies to both people who were vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine and those who were vaccinated with a vector vaccine.


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The third vaccination and the political posturing

Politicians rely on study results which indicate that in these groups the immune response can decrease quickly because the immune system does not react as well as that of younger and healthy people.

The Jena infectiologist Mathias Pletz has also spoken out in favor of a third corona vaccination for certain groups. Against the background of the Delta variant and studies from Israel that showed a decrease in the antibody concentration in the body, this is a “good idea”, said Pletz of the “Thuringian General”.

What role does the delta variant play?

The delta variant, discovered in India and now also prevalent in this country, is significantly more contagious than its predecessor – the US health authority CDC compared it to chickenpox. It is feared that it will spread in autumn and winter.

Compared to earlier variants, a significantly higher amount of virus is found in the blood of Delta infected people. In addition, Delta has to some extent the ability to escape antibodies from vaccinated and convalescent people. It is assumed that against this background, the likelihood of infection also increases for vaccinated people.

third vaccination

Are there booster vaccinations only against Corona?

No. Second and third vaccinations after one and six months are a tried and tested vaccination scheme, for example for children’s vaccinations, said Christine Dahlke from the Department of Clinical Infection Immunology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE). It is well known that lowered antibody levels can be boosted in this way.

The resolution provides for this as a preventive measure regardless of age and previous illness. The background is probably that different types of vaccine also cause different immune responses. There are indications that after two doses of AstraZeneca the level of neutralizing antibodies is slightly lower than after an mRNA vaccination and also lower than after a cross-vaccination, said Dahlke. With regard to the infection process, the refreshment could therefore soon be useful.

It is assumed, however, that AstraZeneca works well on the second arm of the immune response, the so-called T cells. These are important for protection against serious illness.

What vaccines are used for the third vaccination?

For the time being, there are no vaccines available specifically for Delta or other new variants, even if several manufacturers are already working on them. The working theory from many vaccine experts is that the vaccines that are already available “probably significantly increase” the immune response.

Can a third dose pose risks?

It could be that a shorter interval to a previous vaccination leads to stronger vaccination reactions , said Sander. Although these are uncomfortable, they are usually harmless. If, as now planned, at least six months have passed since the previous vaccination, he does not worry about increased vaccination reactions. In the elderly, the tolerance was already very good. But it is of course important to closely monitor the third vaccination.

Can’t you measure whether someone is still immune?

Laboratory tests on antibody levels are possible – however, these do not allow any direct conclusions to be drawn about the protective effect in humans. So far, there is no defined threshold value that could tell whether someone is immune or protected from a severe course.

Not all vaccinated people form measurable levels of antibodies – but that doesn’t mean that you are not protected, said Dahlke. This is due to the memory cells, which raise the antibodies back to a sufficient level in a very short time after an infection. Those cells can be extensively examined for studies, for example, but this is not an option in everyday life.

third vaccination

Israel has already started the third vaccination campaign

In Israel, due to the increasing number of corona infections, people over 50 are also called upon to get a third vaccination from today. In the past two weeks, more than 750,000 people over the age of 60 had received a booster vaccination. The Ministry of Health had found in investigations that the effectiveness of the Biontech vaccination had decreased significantly since the beginning of June.

The Israeli health insurance company Clalit determined how the third vaccination is tolerated in a survey of around 4,500 people who had been vaccinated. Result: 88 percent felt the same or better in the week after the third vaccination than after the second vaccination, only ten percent felt worse.

Overall, 31 percent of those questioned had at least one vaccination reaction, mostly pain at the injection site. Nine percent of those surveyed said they were tired as a result of the third vaccination, around six percent said they were unwell.

According to their own statements, one percent sought medical help because of side effects, 0.4 percent reported problems with breathing.

Frequently Asked Questions about the third vaccination jab in Germany

How long does the vaccination against Corona last?

Experts have not yet been able to give an exact answer. However, it was foreseeable that, above all, the protection against infection would wane after some time. It is known that other respiratory diseases make it difficult to induce a permanently effective defense on the mucous membranes by means of a vaccination administered into a muscle. The protection against serious illness, however, is considered to be longer lasting; according to previous knowledge, this also applies to the delta variant.

Who is the refreshment offer aimed at?

According to the decision, a booster vaccination should be offered in care facilities, integration assistance facilities and other facilities with vulnerable groups – usually at least six months after completion of the first series of vaccinations . Patients with a weakened immune system who live at home or those in need of care living at home should receive the offer from their doctor.

Even people who have been fully vaccinated with vector vaccines – two doses of AstraZeneca or syringe Johnson & Johnson – are said by the decision given the opportunity to vaccination with an mRNA vaccine BioNTech / Pfizer or Moderna. This should be possible in vaccination centers, with doctors or in the company. In clinics such as the Berlin Charité, the offers for employees are starting.

What are the advantages of a third vaccination?

Politicians justified the step with preventive health care and initial study results that indicated that certain groups could increasingly experience a reduced or rapidly declining immune response. This applies in particular to relevant immunocompromised people as well as to the very elderly and those in need of care , it said.

The background is: the immune system of old people does not react as well as that of younger people. The actually high effectiveness of the vaccines is not fully effective with them. It can be similar for people with certain pre-existing conditions.

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