There are new discussions about the recovered status of previously tested positive corona infected people.

After the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) clarified on its website that the shortening of the convalescent status from six to three months only applies to unvaccinated people, but not to fully vaccinated people who have had an infection before or after the vaccination, it rained Violent attacks on social media again.

Critics of the regulation see it as an unfair treatment of formerly infected people who do not want to be vaccinated.

Joachim Müller-Jung

Editor in the feuilleton, responsible for the "Nature and Science" department.

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The scientific justification for the different treatment of those who have recovered was significantly expanded by the RKI in the "Technical specifications for proof of Covid 19 recovery".

This makes it clear why the specification of the convalescent status has become necessary due to new immunity studies.

In fact, studies have shown that people who are simply infected (without vaccination), especially in the omicron wave, only have effective protection against infection for a few weeks to months - and depending on their age and previous illnesses, no lasting protection against other, known virus variants.

The German Society for Virology also commented on Monday in a current statement on the immunity of those who have recovered.

This also makes it clear how complex it is to assess the immunity status of people who have recovered from Covid-19, especially in the omicron wave.

The omicron variant with its numerous mutations is able to reinfect vaccinated and recovered people more easily.

The Society for Virology therefore calls for “a pragmatic regulation to be applied throughout Germany”.

Accordingly, only those who can prove at least three antigen contacts should be considered immune (deadlines and validity period of immunity certificates are not mentioned).

Three antigen contacts, that means for example: vaccinated twice plus booster or vaccinated twice and recovered from an infection once.

The board of the Society for Virology makes it clear that a person can only be considered immune - and a vaccination can be complete - if the body's defenses have been stimulated at least three times to form antibodies and immune cells.

This three-contact requirement is essentially supported by studies that Ulrike Protzer from the Technical University of Munich and the Helmholtz Zentrum München recently published in the science magazine "Nature".

In order to build up high-quality and long-lasting immunity, the defense needs at least three contact with the surface proteins of the virus - whether through vaccination or after infection.

According to the virologists, however, there must be a period of several weeks between two virus-antigen contacts.

Two proven infections in quick succession or a vaccination immediately before or after the infection do not increase the desired immune response.

According to the criteria specified by the RKI, the Standing Vaccination Commission and the Paul Ehrlich Institute, anyone who has received at least two vaccination doses of an mRNA vaccine, for example, or who has received at least one vaccination dose and become infected, is currently considered to be basic immunization or "fully vaccinated" ( with the corresponding PCR proof, which must be at least 28 days old and not older than three months).

The virologists' statement makes it clear once again that a booster - whether as a third vaccination dose or as an infection - is always necessary in order to build up effective immune and long-term protection against infection.

According to the currently valid RKI regulations, people who have recovered within the EU, who were vaccinated before the infection and have the corresponding digital certificate, can also have a recovered certificate issued by the EU in addition to the EU vaccination certificate, which is valid for a total of nine months.

According to the RKI rules, this is then valid for six months after an infection.