The standing vaccination committee Stiko recommends a booster vaccination after six months. But what side effects can occur?
Munich – Almost 14 million people in Germany have received their booster vaccination (as of December 6th). But there is still a lot to do: by the end of the year, the federal government wants to spend 30 million first, second and third vaccinations. When is the right time for a booster vaccination and what side effects can occur?
The Stiko recommends a booster vaccination for everyone aged 18 and over. Due to the Omicron situation, Stiko now recommends a booster of the corona vaccination after three months (as of December 21). By shortening the distance, “the protection against serious diseases caused by infections with the omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2 in the population should be improved and the transmission of the spreading omicron variant should be reduced,” the commission announced on Tuesday. The vaccination protection against the new virus variant is already “significantly decreasing three to four months after basic immunization”.
The Stiko had previously recommended a gap of six months. In individual cases “or if there is sufficient vaccination capacity”, a gap of five months can be considered, it has been said so far. Due to the current spread of the omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2, it can be expected that the course of infection in Germany will be determined by this within a very short time,” the statement continued. After the booster vaccination, “the protective effect against a symptomatic infection with the omicron variant” increases significantly. In the absence of sufficient data, however, no statement can be made as to how long this protection will last.
Booster vaccination recommended only with mRNA vaccines: Biontech and Moderna
In general, the standing vaccination commission recommends an mRNA vaccine for the booster vaccination. In Germany, these are the vaccines from the companies Biontech/Pfizer and the manufacturer Moderna. The vector-based vaccine AstraZeneca is therefore out of the question for a booster vaccination.
Both vaccines from Moderna and Biontech/Pfizer are equivalent, as emphasized by the President of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Klaus Cichutek. Nevertheless, it is not irrelevant which vaccine is used for the third bite. If possible, Stiko recommends using the vaccine from the same manufacturer for the booster vaccination. The main focus is on the available data: “Moderna does not do any studies with Biontech. And Biontech doesn’t do any studies with Moderna,” said a spokeswoman for the RKI WDR. Anyone who received AstraZeneca for the basic immunization, for example, is suitable for cross-vaccination with both Moderna and Biontech/Pfizer. What does the booster bring? With regard to the Omikron variant of the coronavirus, boosters with Moderna and Biontech are effective, but there are differences.
For everyone under the age of 30, the Stiko recommends the use of Biontech exclusively, regardless of which vaccine was previously used. Because in rare cases, inflammation of the heart muscle or pericardium (myocarditis and pericarditis) can occur in younger people, which was slightly more common after vaccination with Moderna. For those over 30, on the other hand, both Moderna and Biontech come into question.
Moderna and Biontech: What short-term side effects can occur?
The side effects of the booster vaccination are comparable to those of the second vaccination. “The studies available so far have shown that the third vaccination does not lead to an increase in side effects. They are in the same range as after the second vaccination,” says expert Christian Bogdan.
The short-term side effects with Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna usually appear within two days after vaccination and usually subside within a few days. On average, the symptoms last no longer than three days. This emerges from data reported to the Paul Ehrlich Institute.
Nine out of ten people did not notice any side effects after the vaccination. The following tables refer to the ten percent who had vaccination reactions. For example, 80 percent of those vaccinated with Biontech found pain at the injection site.
Very frequent vaccination reactions at Biontech
(in more than 10 percent of people aged 16 and over)
- Pain at the injection site (more than 80 percent)
- Fatigue (more than 60 percent)
- Headache (more than 50 percent)
- Muscle pain and chills (more than 30 percent)
- Joint pain (more than 20 percent)
- Fever and swelling at the injection site (more than 10 percent)
Very common vaccination reactions in Moderna
(in more than 10 percent of people aged 18 and over)
- Pain at the injection site (more than 90 percent)
- Fatigue (70 percent)
- Headache and muscle pain (more than 60 percent)
- Joint pain and chills (more than 40 percent)
- Nausea and vomiting (more than 20 percent)
- Swelling and tenderness of the lymph nodes in the armpit, fever, swelling and redness at the injection site (more than ten percent each)
Are there any long-term effects with the Moderna and Biontech vaccines?
Some core beliefs still persist. For example, the idea of the long-term consequences of corona vaccines. The vaccines are very new, so the argument goes, so long-term side effects have not yet been adequately studied. But the basic assumption is wrong: Firstly, the corona vaccines have been extremely well researched. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than eight billion vaccine doses have already been administered worldwide. “The COVID-19 vaccines have been given to many people around the world in a very short time. This means that very rare side effects can be recognized and assessed more quickly than usual,” explains Stiko.
Second, there are generally no long-term side effects from vaccines. All the consequences that a vaccine has appear a few hours, days or weeks after vaccination. “Side effects that occur unexpectedly and only a long time (about several years) after the vaccination have not yet been observed with any vaccination,” says Stiko. So nobody has to fear an undesirable effect that only occurs after a long time.
If, on the other hand, long-term effects are defined as an effect that lasts for a long time, these are certainly possible with corona vaccines. A desired long-term consequence is long-lasting protection against a corona infection or a severe course. However, serious side effects can also occur with Covid vaccinations. In very rare cases, sinus vein thrombosis or myocarditis can occur in connection with the Covid 19 vaccination. These occur shortly after vaccination but can have long-term effects.
Basically it is a risk assessment. The risk of a serious side effect from vaccination is around 0.02 percent. The danger for everyone who encounters the virus without being vaccinated is much greater: One in ten to become infected, has to reckon with a difficult course. The long Covid symptoms are not even included here.
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