In Germany, not only those who have not actually received a vaccine against the coronavirus are considered unvaccinated, but also people who have been vaccinated with a vaccine that is not approved in Germany.

This especially applies to the vaccine from Chinese manufacturer Sinovac and the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Both vaccines are approved in some countries, but not in most EU countries.

Unclear data on the efficacy of Sinovac

In the case of Sinovac, the lack of EU approval is apparently due to missing or ambiguous data on the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“Officially, China says the vaccine is around 70% effective,” said immunologist Carsten Watzl of TU Dortmund. “But there is also data from Peru, where the efficiency is then only 50 percent.”

Nevertheless, someone who has been vaccinated three times with Sinovac is certainly much better protected than someone who has not been vaccinated, emphasizes the immunologist.

From an immunological point of view, a person vaccinated with Sputnik V is certainly very well protected.
Carsten Watzl, immunologist

In the case of Sputnik V, the lack of EU approval is mainly due to insufficient data on possible side effects. Sputnik is a vector vaccine, according to the immunologist: “We know that some side effects like this sinus vein thrombosis and other things happen.”

From an immunological standpoint, someone who has been vaccinated with Sputnik, for example, is “very well protected,” Watzl points out. “He could also do things that vaccinated people are allowed to do here in Germany and in Europe.”

“Ultimately, this is where immunology meets politics”

Watzl says it’s a political decision that people who have been vaccinated with Sputnik are still considered unvaccinated. “Ultimately, this is where immunology meets politics.”

From an immunological point of view, he thought it would be better if immunity was not measured by the number of vaccinations with a certain vaccine, but by a biological value, such as the level of antibodies.

“Unfortunately, this value does not yet exist, so at the moment one has to rely a little on the fact that someone is saying: if someone is vaccinated so much and this often with this vaccine, then they are well protected.”

A “German” booster as an issue?

For those affected, one way out of this dilemma might be to be boosted with a vaccine approved in Germany, says Watzl.

But this is also proving difficult in practice: because a person who has been vaccinated twice with Sputnik V would have to be vaccinated twice to obtain fully vaccinated status in Germany. “It doesn’t make any immunological sense anymore.”

In this regard, he then recommends that people get vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Because you are already fully vaccinated after a vaccination. “But it is, and we also know it, not the best combination,” admits Watzl. “It would be better with mRNA.”

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