BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany needs to offer booster shots to an additional 15 million people to slow the spread of the Omicron strain and hopefully avoid a rush on intensive care units, its health minister said in remarks published on Wednesday.
Karl Lauterbach told the RND group of newspapers that modelling by the Robert Koch Institute for public health showed that more than 80% of people who have already received two vaccination shots against the coronavirus would need a third.
Of the 59.3 million people – 71.3% of the population – who have had two shots some 32.7 million have also had a booster. This means that another 15 million booster shots are needed to cross the 80% threshold virologists believe is necessary for a buffer against Omicron, which spreads faster.
Germany has limited private gatherings for vaccinated people to a maximum of 10 people, closed clubs and discos and banned spectators from big events, including soccer matches, stopping short of a full lockdown to contain a fourth wave.
Lauterbach said the contact restrictions, combined with an effort to get a booster quota of 80%, would slow down the spread of Omicron.
“This will make it difficult for Omicron,” Lauterbach told RND. “Booster vaccination is the best protection against Omicron.”
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Alex Richardson)