Article from Tagesspiegel. (Translation by Google.)
Seven young Germans are infected in South Africa despite a third-party vaccination.
Six of the seven participants in the travel group were boosted with Biontech. All showed mild symptoms, but did not become seriously ill.
A group of seven Germans between the ages of 25 and 39 were infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in South Africa, even though all of them have already received their booster vaccination. This is what Wolfgang Preiser, a member of the research consortium that discovered the variant, told Tagesspiegel.
“What we did not know is that even a booster vaccination with Biontech / Pfizer does not prevent this”
“We’re seeing a lot of breakthrough infections right now. What we did not know is that even a booster vaccination with Biontech / Pfizer does not prevent this,” Preiser explained to the Tagesspiegel. These infections are the first breakthrough infections reported with the Omicron variant in people who have already received their booster vaccinations.
“Of course you shouldn’t misunderstand that vaccination doesn’t help. On the contrary: It only shows that even the best possible vaccination is obviously not enough to prevent infection – which we already suspected, “said Preiser.
According to a study published by Preiser and his colleagues on the case on Thursday, the tour group was infected as early as late November or early December.
All seven had received at least two of their three vaccinations with an mRNA vaccine. Six of them received the booster vaccine from Biontech, one from Moderna. Six people are under 30 years old and one person is 39 years old.
These vaccines were given to people in this order:
People 1 to 5: Biontech, Biontech, Biontech
Person 6: Biontech, Biontech, Moderna
Person 7: Astrazeneca, Biontech, Biontech
According to the study, none of the seven infected people had relevant previous illnesses and none had previously tested positive. Four of them did medical internships in various local hospitals, the other three were on vacation. When they arrived in South Africa in the first half of November, they all tested negative.
When the seven-day incidence rose significantly in the Western Cape Province where they were staying, the seven people also developed mild symptoms, which began between November 30 and December 2. After the positive tests, everyone went to quarantine at home and kept a diary of symptoms.
During the quarantine, people had common Covid-19 symptoms. The most common symptoms were sore throat, tiredness, headache, but dry cough, pressure on the chest and sinuses, runny nose and nausea were also reported. One person had night sweats and another reported temporary odor and taste disorders.
The antibody level that the subjects had was at a similar level to four weeks after a second vaccination. The viral load of the seven people, on the other hand, is on average put higher in the study than was the case with infections with the original Sars-Cov-2 variant from Wuhan, the wild type. However, the study authors state that these are preliminary figures.
With 10 to the power of 7, however, the omicron variant in the cases from South Africa achieved lower viral loads than the alpha variant four days after the onset of symptoms. According to measurements by the Christian Drostens research group at the Charité, this can reach viral loads of 10 to 8 four days after the onset of symptoms.
None of the seven Germans had to deal with a severe course of the infection. “Of course you can now say: These are young people anyway. But one can assume that at least a difficult course will be prevented, ”said Preiser. The first data from a Biontech study also allowed this conclusion, company boss Ugur Sahin announced on Wednesday.
Biontech and Pfizer announced on Wednesday that, according to their laboratory study, a booster vaccination would neutralize the omicron variant, while the variant could break the vaccination protection after only two vaccinations.
The third vaccination increases the antibody level 25 times compared to two vaccinations. This level offers a high level of protection against infection with all known virus variants, explained the companies.
The booster breakthroughs that have now become known in South Africa are, on the one hand, a setback. But they also show what the companies have already announced: that an adapted vaccine is necessary. Biontech and Pfizer expect to have this customized vaccine available by the end of March.
As Biontech boss Sahin explained in an interview with “Spiegel” on Thursday, the decision had not yet been finally made whether an Omikron vaccine would be manufactured. Sahin affirmed that, in his opinion, the current vaccines can still provide good protection against serious illness. Sahin also brought a forthcoming fourth vaccination into play, then with the new vaccine for the variant.
Until then, explains Wolfgang Preiser, the booster vaccination is the only thing that will help against Omikron. “But you have to be aware that even this does not prevent an infection 100 percent. In other words: You have to continue to adhere to the precautionary measures. “