Estimating the share of SARS-CoV-2-immunologically naïve individuals in Germany up to June 2022

Benjamin F. Maier*, Annika H. Rose, Angelique Burdinski, Pascal Klamser, Hannelore Neuhauser, Ole Wichmann, Lars Schaade, Lothar H. Wieler, Dirk Brockmann

*Corresponding author for this work

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After the winter of 2021/2022, the COVID-19 pandemic had reached a phase where a considerable num-ber of people in Germany have been either infected with a SARS-CoV-2 variant, vaccinated, or both, the full extent of which was difficult to estimate, however, because infection counts suffer from under-reporting, and the overlap between the vaccinated and recovered subpopulations is unknown. Yet, reliable estimates regarding population-wide susceptibility were of considerable interest: Since both previous infection and vaccination reduce the risk of severe disease, a low share of immunologically naïve individuals lowers the probability of further severe outbreaks, given that emerging variants do not escape the acquired susceptibil-ity reduction. Here, we estimate the share of immunologically naive individuals by age group for each of the sixteen German federal states by integrating an infectious-disease model based on weekly incidences of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the national surveillance system and vaccine uptake, as well as assumptions re-garding under-Ascertainment. We estimate a median share of 5.6% of individuals in the German population have neither been in contact with vaccine nor any variant up to May 31, 2022 (quartile range [2.5%-8.5%]). For the adult population at higher risk of severe disease, this figure is reduced to 3.8% [1.6%-5.9%] for ages 18-59 and 2.1% [1.0%-3.4%] for ages 60 and above. However, estimates vary between German states mostly due to heterogeneous vaccine uptake. Excluding Omicron infections from the analysis, 16.3% [14.1%-17.9%] of the population in Germany, across all ages, are estimated to be immunologically naïve, highlighting the large impact the first two Omicron waves had until the beginning of summer in 2022. The method developed here might be useful for similar estimations in other countries or future outbreaks of other infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Immunity
  • Modelling


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