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Infection instead of vaccination at Omikron? Why this isn’t a good idea

 Infection instead of vaccination at Omikron?  Why this isn't a good idea

“Omicron is said to be like a cold. What’s the point of scaremongering?”, “If the courses are milder, i.e. similar to a cold, then we could let Omicron run through them like in South Africa”, “Who’s afraid of Omicron? – Nobody!” Such and similar statements can currently be found in abundance on social networks. The corona variant Omicron is described as harmless. As a simple cold virus that is not a problem if you catch it. That’s wrong. Whether unvaccinated, recovered, fully vaccinated or boosted – an infection with the corona virus should not be underestimated.

Severity of the disease with Omikron: Mild does not mean harmless

First of all, it must be stated that data from South Africa, Great Britain, Denmark and the USA do indeed suggest that the severity of the disease is reduced in Omicron. This means that infected people need to be treated in hospital less often. Omicron therefore ensures a milder course of the disease than the virus variant predecessor Delta. That’s the good news. Video Drosten on omicron wave: “We have this vaccination gap in Germany” The virologist at the Charité Christian Drosten points out that the vaccination will probably have to be adjusted again. © Reuters But what does a mild course of the disease actually mean? This expression suggests that “that’s something positive, like mild temperatures,” said Melanie Brinkmann, virologist from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig, on Thursday evening on the ZDF program “maybrit illner”. Mild does not necessarily mean harmless. A study by the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf had shown, for example, that even a mild to moderate Covid 19 disease can impair the functions of the heart, lungs and kidneys in the medium term. “It’s still a virus, which can make you very ill,” Brinkmann clarified.

For the unvaccinated, Omicron is almost as dangerous as Delta

In addition, the severity of the disease of omicron depends on immunity. Carsten Watzl, Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology, referred to data from Great Britain in early January. These make it clear that Omikron is 60 to 70 percent less harmful to vaccinated people than Delta. Although they can become infected with the virus variant because it can partially bypass the built-up immune response, they remain well protected against a severe course of the disease. “For unvaccinated people, however, Omicron is almost as dangerous as Delta (only about 20 percent more harmless),” wrote Watzl Twitter. This means that Omikron is likely to become a problem, especially for those who have not been vaccinated. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) currently classifies the risk of unvaccinated people becoming infected with the corona virus as “very high”. Around a quarter of Germans are not yet immunized against Covid-19, that is around 20.9 million people. “We have too many unvaccinated people in Germany, especially those over 60,” criticized Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute for Virology at the Berlin Charité, in an interview with Deutschlandfunk at the end of December last year. “And of course they are really in danger.” Video vaccine researchers: fourth corona vaccination may only be for risk groups The booster vaccinations are in full swing in Germany. Will vaccinations be necessary every three months soon? © dpa This vaccination gap makes it equally difficult to transfer the international data on the severity of the disease from Omikron to Germany. Because in countries like Great Britain and the USA the vaccination campaign is already further advanced. That means more people have already purchased protection against the coronavirus.

Risk of Long Covid cannot be assessed

Virologist Brinkmann also speaks of “very, very many question marks” that there are with regard to Omikron. On the one hand, it is unclear how people at risk, such as immunosuppressed people, and children – especially those under five who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 – react to an infection with the virus variant. The late effects of a corona infection, better known as long covid or post-covid syndrome, are still largely unexplored. Does omicron more often cause symptoms that persist months after the infection has been overcome? If so, what are they, how severe are they and how long do they last? There are still no answers to these questions. The exact extent or the consequences of an omicron infection cannot yet be precisely assessed. Behaving carelessly and knowingly risking an infection with the omicron variant is therefore not a good idea. Even if an infection can provide immunity. Because the human immune system reacts to every contact with the corona virus by forming antibodies that provide temporary protection against reinfection. How high this protection must be to prevent renewed infection is another question mark in the omicron puzzle. Especially since the immune responses in each recovered person can vary in strength.

Infections burden the health system

In addition to the individual risk of becoming seriously ill and developing long-term effects, infections with Omikron can also cause damage to society. “Even if infections caused by Omikron are milder overall: Due to the mass of infections, we unfortunately have to be prepared for the fact that the number of hospitalizations and deaths will increase again,” explained RKI boss Lothar Wieler on Friday at the federal press conference in Berlin. what does he mean with that? Because Omicron is significantly more contagious than Delta, many people will also contract the virus variant unintentionally. Not everyone will be infected without symptoms; there will also be severe courses that have to be treated in the hospital. This means an additional burden for the clinics.

The means against omicron: vaccinate and avoid infections

“We are expecting many omicron patients soon, which will require more effort in the hospitals,” said Susanne Johna, chairwoman of the Marburger Bund medical association, a few days ago in an RND interview. “They have to be isolated, some of them need oxygen and the staff have to put on protective clothing. There is considerable additional logistical effort.” In its statements, the Federal Government’s Expert Council warns of another worst-case scenario: the omicron wave could paralyze critical infrastructure such as hospitals or rescue services because many employees become infected and isolate at the same time have to. This exceptional situation occurred in Great Britain, for example. Every citizen can help to ensure that the clinics are not unnecessarily burdened. On the one hand by getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and thus protecting themselves from serious illnesses, and on the other hand by avoiding infections. That means: Comply with the AHA+L rule (distance, hygiene, everyday life with a mask and ventilation), reduce contacts, maintain distance regulations and stay at home with typical corona symptoms. “Every infection that we prevent helps to cope with the wave and also to relieve the health system,” made RKI boss Wieler clear.

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