Status: 01/28/2022 06:32 a.m
Is the Omicron virus variant primarily a risk – or is it also a chance for the end of the pandemic? What development do virologists and epidemiologists expect?
The Bremen infection epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology sees “light at the end of the tunnel”. Due to the high infection rate of the omicron variant, almost everyone will inevitably become infected with it.
“Because at the same time the course of the disease is milder, especially in people who have been comprehensively vaccinated, there is an opportunity to reach a state of broad basic immunization in society,” Zeeb told the “Weser-Kurier”.
Christian Karagiannidis, Head of the ECMO Center of the Cologne-Merheim Lung Clinic and member of the Federal Government’s Expert Council, expects that Omicron will again lead to significant stress in all areas of life, in particular through staff shortages, but also to stress on the normal wards of the hospitals and in the outpatient area.
“I am basically optimistic that in a few weeks we will hardly be talking about Corona and that the chance of the endemic 2022 will become tangible. The faster everyone is vaccinated, the faster we will be there,” said Karagiannidis. But he is worried about the coming autumn. You have to prepare well here.
opportunity and risk
Omicron has milder gradients than Delta. Therein lies an opportunity, but also a risk. Because many are starting to underestimate Corona. Virologist Sandra Ciesek warned against careless handling. The idea of being intentionally infected with the omicron virus variant in order to gain immunity through a supposedly mild course is absurd, she said in the current issue Ed-Podcast. “I don’t intentionally get infected with the hepatitis C virus just because it can be treated well,” says Ciesek.
Data from South Africa would prove that although the unvaccinated form a specific immune reaction to omicron, they hardly ever develop antibodies against Delta. “So you have to assume that these people could get infected again with Delta if it circulates again,” the virologist fears.
Drosten fears a new variant
Those who have recovered could probably be infected again with another variant. There are various ways in which omicron could develop from a rather mild variant into a more pathogenic one, said the virologist Christian Drosten on Deutschlandfunk. He fears a recombination of omicron and delta. Mainly due to the changes in the so-called spike protein, the omicron variant is currently able to circumvent the at least partially existing immune protection of the population. It is conceivable that a virus will emerge in the future that, on the one hand, “carries the spike protein of the omicron virus in order to continue to enjoy this immune advantage, but has the rest of the delta virus genome,” says Drosten.
The strategy “We all infect ourselves with the mild omicron and then everyone is immune” is therefore a fallacy, says Drosten. That is why vaccination is still the best protection.
Ciesek: At the expense of the “immune weak”
Virologist Ciesek points out the consequences if boosted and newly recovered contact persons no longer have to be in quarantine. These could still spread the virus – especially with the omicron variant. With a view to society as a whole, it is questionable if people do not care about an infection in the expectation of an easier course. Because those who have not been able to build up sufficient immune protection would have to pay for it, said Ciesek. For example, people with a compromised immune system or the elderly.
Karagiannidis warns that it is also a fallacy to only rely on supposedly mild courses at Omikron. “In terms of surgery, we will again see many patients in the clinics, but individually with less severity of the disease. That’s good,” he says. “However, the large numbers together with the increasing loss of staff can become a real problem. In terms of content, we lack some data to say how heavy the burden on the wards will be,” says the specialist in internal medicine.
Good monitoring in all areas of life is now important: “How many lessons do we have due to quarantine and infection? How many patients come to the hospital and how many of them become seriously ill?”.
Kargiannidis: Hardly any comparable data
Kargiannidis points out that there is hardly any patient-specific or comparative data on Delta in Germany. The population in this country is on average older than in South Africa, for example, which limits comparability. In Great Britain, many risk groups and older people have already been boosted.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has repeatedly emphasized that boosters started too late in Germany. Now there is a risk that the omicron variant, which first appeared primarily in younger people in Germany, will now also spread more and more among the older and unvaccinated sections of the population. It is not yet clear whether these groups will also experience significantly milder courses than Delta.