The number of people being infected with Covid-19 despite vaccination is increasing. Does infecting vaccinated people mean that the vaccine is no longer effective? A fact-check by DW.
Infections in the elderly care center: 15 infected, two dead: There are such media headlines that increase insecurity and fear among people about the vaccine. So the vaccine is not as effective as thought?
Cases of infections in people who are fully vaccinated and still get sick and show symptoms of Covid-19 are considered as a loss of vaccine protection. According to the Robert Koch Institute, in Germany from February 1 this year were registered 117,763 of loss of protection, despite vaccination (registration until 28.10.2021), cases when infected persons despite vaccination had no symptoms were not registered.
Jo. The claim that is rapidly spreading on social networks that the vaccine does not work is wrong. It is fair to say that so far none of the vaccines offer 100% protection. According to a study by the U.S. health authority, CDC vaccine protection ranges from 85% -95%. In Germany the effectiveness of the vaccine according to RKI calculations for the age of 18-59 years in the last 9 months has been at 83%. For people over the age of 60 this protective effect is up to 81%.
In the last four weeks the protection against infection has decreased. According to RKI, the effectiveness of the vaccine for the age of 18-59 has dropped to 75%, for the age over 60 it became 73%. One of the reasons for this is the most contagious variant of the virus, Delta.
But the effectiveness of the vaccine also depends on the time factor. “There are still no people who have been vaccinated for more than a year. Therefore, we can not say exactly how long the protection from the vaccine lasts “, says Christine Falk, president of the German Association of Immunology, DGfI in a conversation with Deutsche Wellen. We know, however, that after 6-9 months the level of antibodies drops. “It would not bother me if we did not have the Delta version of the Corona virus, which is more contagious than others,” says Falk. An immunologist working at the Institute of Transplant Immunology at the University of Hanover School of Medicine states that “if the immune defense with antibodies against the Spike protein of the virus is no longer like ‘1’, then the virus can penetrate this line of defense and enter in the cells, in the space of the throat and nose and cause infection ”.
However, even if the protection against infection fades over time the protection from the disease remains in severe form. According to the CDC study, those who are vaccinated “are 8 times less likely to become infected and 25 times less likely to be hospitalized or die.” The latest RKI report also confirms this. Only 0.55% of the 117,763 cases of infections in vaccinated patients had to be treated intensively in hospital. Protection from intensive treatment affects 94%, 92% for those over 60 years of age.
Increased infections with all vaccinations?
Yes. According to RKI in the weeks from 24.09.-24.10. 40,467 infections aged 18-59 years with all vaccinations were recorded. Cases of symptomatic infections have thus increased to 10.9%, compared to the entire period since vaccination began. If you look at the last week then this increase is higher, 37.5%. The share of patients in the intensive care unit has increased by 3.2% since the beginning of the year. and 12% in the last four weeks. There is also an increase in cases over the age of 60. In the four weeks recorded (24.09-24.10) even the increase of infections despite vaccination has increased in this age group to 58.95. Even the cases of patients over 60 years old who are treated in intensive care have increased to 33.4%.
According to RKI, this development, ie insufficient vaccination, was expected, because more and more people have been vaccinated and the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading again. “With this, the probability of falling in contact with the virus”, it is said in the weekly report.
Are the unvaccinated responsible for all vaccination infections?
Jo. “But their attitude has a big impact on the development of the pandemic and the aggravation of health systems.” Those who go to the hospital, according to the RKI weekly report, are currently almost all unvaccinated over the age of 60. ” “Even the few vaccinated people who have to go to the hospital are mostly over 60 years old.” If the incidence of infections increases these months, the unvaccinated are more likely to become infected. According to Falk, vaccinated people can also be infected, “because there is more virus circulating in the population.”
When does the effect of the vaccine disappear?
Vaccine protection is not the same for everyone, because there are several reasons for the decline in the effect of the vaccine. Important factors are age, previous illnesses, the interval between vaccinations and the vaccine itself. Especially in the elderly, people with cancer or transplants the effect of the vaccine drops compared to others. STIKO, the German Standing Committee on Vaccines has therefore recommended that people over 70 years of age refresh their vaccinations. There is also a recommendation for a third vaccination for staff in hospitals or care centers for the elderly.
The time interval between the first and second dose also has an effect on the duration of vaccine protection. In Israel, for example. where the majority of the population was vaccinated with bioNTech / Pfizer has been 21 days between the two vaccines. Immunologist Falk explains that the “memory effect” in BioNTech at 42 days is better than after 21 days. “The second vaccine is important for building immune memory. The protection function is created on this memory. ” The longer the distance between the two vaccines the better the protection, “so at BioNTech 6 weeks is better than 3 weeks between the two doses and 12 weeks at AstraZeneca.”
Falk is already critical of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for which just one dose is enough. “The studies that enabled the vaccine to be allowed were all done with the first variant of the vaccine. But then came Alpha and later Delta as variants. Therefore, not all the antibodies that were created can verify Delta well enough. “
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