The most important questions and answers about the booster vaccination

Vaccination certificate with a coronavirus vaccination entry

The booster vaccination enhances the immune system – it can significantly increase vaccination protection against the coronavirus.

Photo: Getty Images/Jens Schlueter

Why is a booster vaccination important?

First of all: COVID-19 vaccines provide effective protection against severe disease. The vaccines used in Germany have a significant effect in terms of preventing coronavirus infections as well as reducing the risk of infecting others.

Studies show that vaccine protection can diminish over time, especially in the very elderly or in those who have a weakened immune system. It is also the case that the overall immune response after vaccination is lower in older people. Here a booster vaccination can significantly increase protection. The body makes more antibodies, allowing it to establish even more effective protection against the virus. The booster vaccination enhances the immune system – hence the name.

00:52

#vaccinefacts – Part 16 Why is a booster vaccination necessary? 


#vaccinationknowlege – part 16 Why is a booster vaccination necessary? 

When is a booster vaccination required?

The Standing Commission on Vaccination recommends that everyone aged 18 and over should get a booster six months after their last vaccination. In individual cases or if there is enough vaccine available, boosters can be given after just five months.

Who can get a booster vaccination now?

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends a booster vaccination with an mRNA vaccine (usually six months after the second vaccination) for all those aged 18 and over.

However, the STIKO reiterates its recommendation that the following groups should be offered a booster as a matter of priority: those with immunodeficiency, the over 70s, residents and persons in care in facilities for the elderly and health workers. Furthermore, those who have not yet received a coronavirus vaccination should be vaccinated as a matter of priority.

For an overview of the STIKO recommendations for coronavirus vaccinations, see the 

website.

Which vaccines are used for the booster vaccination?

Regardless of which vaccine was used for the first and second vaccination, an mRNA vaccine (BioNTech, Moderna) should be used for the booster. The two mRNA vaccines are comparable in terms of efficacy, safety and efficiency. This decision was made based on current scientific evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccines approved to date for widespread use, as well as their availability.

For those who have received a full vector vaccine series, protection against COVID-19 is increased by booster vaccination with an mRNA vaccine. Data indicates that a cross-vaccination of this kind (heterologous vaccination scheme – first vector vaccine, then mRNA vaccine) results in significantly higher antibody formation than a homologous vaccination scheme with vector vaccines only.

Have the vaccines that are used for booster vaccinations (mRNA vaccines) been adapted to the new virus variants?

The booster vaccination is currently provided using the mRNA vaccines available. This is possible based on the current authorisation of these vaccines. The mRNA vaccines available for booster vaccination have not yet been adapted to new variants, and studies on the adaptation of vaccines to new variants are still ongoing. For this reason, newly adapted vaccines are not yet available. In addition, various clinical trials results show that, although the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines available is slightly weakened with regard to the Delta variant, it still remains high. In terms of hospitalisation, there has been no loss of efficacy so far as compared to the Alpha variant.

Where can I get a booster vaccination?

Booster vaccinations are available from mobile vaccination teams, general practitioners, in-house doctors and vaccination centres, for example. The organisation and implementation of the booster vaccination programme is the responsibility of the federal states.

For up-to-date details of local arrangements, see the information page of your federal state government.

What applies to those who have been fully vaccinated with a series comprising the AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson vaccines?

For those who have received their first vaccination with the Johnson&Johnson vector vaccine, the STIKO recommends a vaccination with an mRNA vaccine from the fourth week after receiving the original vaccination in order to optimise protection.

Those who received their first series of vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vector vaccine can also receive a booster with an mRNA vaccine six months after the second vaccination. The same applies to those who have received a cross-vaccination (1st shot: vector vaccine + 2nd shot: mRNA vaccine).

Is the booster vaccination free of charge?

Yes. All vaccinations against the coronavirus that are carried out under the Vaccination Ordinance are available to citizens free of charge. This also applies to booster vaccinations.

Can the flu vaccination and the coronavirus booster vaccination be given at the same time?

Yes. A flu vaccination can be administered together with a vaccination against the coronavirus. The STIKO recommends flu vaccinations for those aged 60 and over, those who are pregnant, people with pre-existing conditions and health workers, among others.

For all the main questions and answers about the coronavirus vaccination, see the other FAQ.

Keywords