The head of Germany's Standing Committee on Vaccination says the country must prepare for the possibility that all citizens will need a third 'booster' dose of vaccine in 12 months' time.
The head of Germany’s independent vaccine advisory panel says it’s likely that all citizens will have to get vaccinated again next year against COVID-19.
Virologist Thomas Mertens, chairman of the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, told Funke newspaper: "The virus won't leave us again."
In comments published on Sunday, he added that there is not yet enough data to say exactly when booster shots will be needed, or whether some groups will need it more urgently than others.
But, he said, “In principle, we have to prepare for everyone possibly having to refresh their vaccine protection next year.”
Germany's coronavirus infection rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly two months on Friday, with just 96.5 new cases per 100,000 population recorded that week.
Nearly 30.4 million people, or 36.5 per cent of the population, had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Friday. More than 9 million people, or 10.9 per cent of the population, are now fully vaccinated.
Mertens's comments come a month after Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, said it was "likely" that people will need a third booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine 12 months after their second, followed by annual revaccinations to stay on top of the virus mutating.
The European Union has already agreed a massive contract extension with Pfizer-BioNTech for a potential 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to be delivered in 2021-23.
On May 8, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen confirmed the deal on Twitter, saying 900 million doses were guaranteed and up to 900 million more could be ordered during the period.
Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech have already said they will provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the second quarter of this year, making up for flagtging deliveries of AstraZeneca.