NewsDrosten sees the Omikron problem approaching Germany

Drosten sees the Omikron problem approaching Germany

Is the corona pandemic coming to an end in 2022? There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding Omikron. Virologist Drosten has a bad feeling, especially when it comes to the risk of unvaccinated people.

Berlin – The virologist Christian Drosten fears difficulties with the Omikron variant of the corona virus in this country from the beginning of next year.

“I think we will have a problem with Omikron in Germany from January,” said the scientist from the Charité in Berlin on Tuesday in the “Coronavirus Update” podcast at NDR-Info. He warned again that the vaccination gaps in the population should be closed, so now it must be all about the protection of the individual. Omikron will probably make adjustments to the existing vaccines necessary.

Variant B.1.1.529, which was first detected in southern Africa, has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “causing concern”. The EU health authority ECDC speaks of serious concerns that the variant could significantly reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines and increase the risk of re-infections. The exact effects of the variant have not yet been determined.

25 to 30 cases in Germany

Drosten warned that the omicron problem could last into the summer. In South Africa, the growth rates are high despite the summer that is beginning there. “And that’s why I wouldn’t say at the moment that the pandemic in Germany will be over by Easter if Omikron takes over.” So far, he has known about 25 to 30 Omikron cases in this country from his exchange with colleagues. The number is not complete and will increase rapidly. The virus seems to be “extremely spreadable”. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) spoke of four previously confirmed cases last Thursday.

The virologist emphasized that there were still many unanswered questions about the variant and that more data would have to be awaited. Drosten spoke several times of a “guessing session”. The starting positions in South Africa and England, where Omikron is spreading at a worrying speed, are also different than in Germany. This affects, among other things, the proportion of those who have been vaccinated and recovered, but also the measures that are currently in force. Germany is currently driving with the “handbrake on”, so it could be that the spread will not take place quite as quickly. Data from some countries could also be distorted due to targeted, very precise tracking of travelers returning and their environment.

“Stupid combination” to fear

He does not want to paint the devil on the wall, but thinks caution is necessary in view of the changes in the virus, said the Charité researcher. At Omikron, the “stupidest combination” of properties is to be feared: immune escape and fitness gain – a variant that escapes the antibodies of vaccinated and convalescents better and is also more contagious. According to the Corona expert, a new generation of adapted vaccines could possibly be used from the second quarter of 2022. Manufacturers had announced work to adapt to Omikron. The variant shows numerous mutations at critical points.

At the moment it is certainly still “good” to use the existing vaccines and also to “definitely advance” the booster vaccination, said Drosten. Vaccinated persons do not have to fear a complete disappearance of their immune protection, but a reduction is foreseeable. He doesn’t think people who already had a booster would be back to what they were at the beginning of the pandemic. Drosten did not rule out a boost in the population towards winter over the next few years. However, he clearly contradicted representations according to which people could have a “lifelong vaccination subscription” in front of them.

Too early for a final assessment

Also in view of the severe courses that have now been observed in children in South Africa, it is to be feared that Omikron is “not harmless” for those who have not been vaccinated, said Drosten. One shouldn’t fall into euphoria because of reports of mild developments in South Africa: Most people there have already been infected with Sars-2 corona virus. Germany is not yet ready with immunity in the population.

The US immunologist Anthony Fauci pointed out the possibility of milder courses on Tuesday, but warned that it was too early for a final assessment. The relatively mild courses observed could also have something to do with the younger people who were particularly affected. dpa

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