Experts start warning: there is a corona wave ahead. Infections in the Netherlands have been on the rise in the last few weeks. The increase in the number of corona patients in hospitals is still small, but it is expected that the new omikron variants will make considerably more people ill. This raises questions, since for many people, the last vaccination has been quite some time ago. Marjolein van Egmond professor of immunology at Amsterdam UMC and epidemiologist Susan van den Hof of RIVM were interviewed about this topic by Trouw.

Isn't it time for another round of vaccinations?

The RIVM's so-called response team closely examines this question, explains epidemiologist Susan van den Hof, who works at the institute. "We look at the epidemiological situation, and whether there is reason for the OMT to issue an advice on a new vaccination campaign. In any case, we are focusing on the fall, when a new wave is expected."

What does RIVM currently recommend regarding the vaccination?

Van den Hof: "We see that the vaccines still protect very well against hospitalisation, but somewhat less against infection." The RIVM is also looking at how the virus is developing in other countries. "In Portugal, you see that in addition to the number of infections, hospital admissions are increasing again. But the difference when comparing to the Netherlands is that in Portugal they started with the repeat shot later."

In the Netherlands, a second repeat shot is still an option. The government's most recent recommendation was for this second repeat shot to be taken spring 2022 by the elderly and vulnerable people. However, more than half of this group did not take the shot. Van den Hof: "Many people were unable to get the shot because they had also been infected with the virus. If they now think: there will be a new wave, I don't feel comfortable with that, then they still have the option to take a second repeat shot."

If you had your last shot six months ago, how well protected are you for the next wave?

"There are some things we just don't know. That applies to any vaccination" says Marjolein van Egmond professor of immunology at Amsterdam UMC. "You can't predict how long the protection lasts: in fact, you only know how effective a vaccination was afterwards."

How do you view repeat vaccinations as protection against the impending waves?

Van Egmond: "Repeat vaccinations can protect against serious illness, especially in vulnerable populations, because their immune system is somewhat weaker. But for young healthy people a repeat shot will have a limited effect. You can also ask yourself whether it is useful to repeat the injection every six months. Most people don't seem to be very keen on getting it."

'What we need to do above all is keep a close
eye on the virus'
Marjolein van Egmond
Professor of Immunology at Amsterdam UMC

But is it not wise to already start thinking about the virus in the fall?

Van Egmond: "I understand that not knowing what to expect creates a sense of uncertainty, but this is not an exact science in which we can predict exactly how the pandemic will develop. That also depends, for example, on whether new virus variants emerge. What you have to do above all is keep a close eye on the virus, as is already been done. For example with the help of sewage measurements. In this way you can intervene in time if necessary. It is wise to be well prepared. You might consider offering the group that qualifies for the flu shot an extra corona vaccination in the fall."

In any case, we are in a much better position than last summer, says the professor. "Almost everyone has now built up some form of immunity, either through vaccination or through the virus itself. That was not the case last year."

Source: read the original (Dutch) article by Robin Goudsmit in Trouw here.