The corona numbers are rising and many people are asking themselves: When does it make sense to get vaccinated (again)? Does the vaccine protect me from Long Covid? When is it worth wearing a mask? Answers to the most important questions.
What is the current Corona situation in Germany?
The 7-day incidence reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is nine Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This number seems low. This is also because significantly fewer people are being tested for the corona virus than before. But the current low incidence cannot hide the fact that Corona is gaining momentum.
The number of doctor visits for a respiratory disease with a Covid-19 diagnosis is 56 per 100,000 citizens and has therefore fallen by 7 percent compared to the previous week.
There are currently two variants spreading, both of which are sublines of Omicron. On the one hand there is Eris (EG.5). According to current knowledge from experts, Eris is not expected to be more severe than other variants. However, the Pirola variant (BA.2.86), which was also detected in Germany, is significantly more mutated.
Last week, according to the BMG 128 Covid-19 deaths recorded. That is 42 percent less than the previous week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 175,989 people nationwide (as of September 27, 2023) have died from or with Covid-19.
Vaccination: What are the recommendations?
A booster vaccination has been available in doctor’s offices since September 18th. It is adapted to the XBB.1.5 variant. This is the variant that was previously dominant in Germany and from which Eris and Pirola descend. The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and the RKI jointly called on the population to inform themselves the vaccination recommendations inform yourself and get vaccinated in consultation with your doctor.
Many experts believe it makes sense to update your own immune status to the more developed Omicron subline XBB.1.5 – also with regard to the new Eris and Pirola variants. Vaccinations have been proven to reduce the risk of a serious course of the disease and pose significantly fewer risks of side effects than a corona infection.
According to the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), people aged 60 and over, people with previous illnesses, employees who work in the health sector or relatives of people with a disturbed immune response should be vaccinated. People who have a lot of contact with other people can also ask about a vaccination. As a rule, twelve months should have passed since the last vaccination or infection.
Unlike the CDC in the USA, the German Stiko does not recommend the booster for everyone. Preferably, people at particular risk should be vaccinated.
But: Everyone can ask their family doctor about their own vaccination request. It is important to weigh up arguments for or against vaccination, even if you are younger and do not belong to a risk group.
I am under 60. Can I still get vaccinated?
Yes, in principle everyone can get vaccinated. The BMG’s Covid-19 Prevention Ordinance stipulates that, in addition to the vaccination guidelines, insured persons are entitled to vaccinations against Covid-19 if a doctor considers the vaccination to be medically necessary. If your own family doctor does not carry out the vaccination, you can ask another doctor. Some pharmacies also offer vaccinations.
Basically, experts speak of a very broad basic immunity that exists in Germany due to previous vaccinations and/or previous infections. But that doesn’t mean that you can no longer become infected with the coronavirus, even if you are vaccinated – after all, the virus mutates faster than other domestic pathogens. Each new infection also carries the risk of long-term damage.
It is not yet possible to say with certainty how great the risk of Long Covid is after an infection. There is a lack of population-representative, controlled studies with sufficient follow-up time that enable a comparison of people with and without a Covid-19 infection. Different studies come with different methodological designs to different results.
One Study from Germany estimates the frequency of post-Covid-19 in the period from 6 to 12 months after an infection to be at least 6.5 percent in predominantly non-hospitalized patients, if, in addition to the reported symptoms, limitations in everyday performance and functionality are taken into account. Analyzes from routinely collected outpatient data from statutory health insurance arrive at approximately similar frequency estimates of 7 percent to 13 percent in the four billing quarters in 2022.
Does vaccination protect against Long Covid?
“This question has not yet been clearly clarified scientifically. According to current knowledge, the best way to prevent Long Covid is to avoid Sars-CoV-2 infections and reinfections by adhering to infection control measures,” writes the Robert Koch Institute (As of September 20, 2023).
Some study results provide evidence that the vaccination not only protects against severe courses of Covid-19, but can also alleviate the frequency and severity of long-Covid symptoms after a breakthrough infection. Other studies provide evidence that vaccination can reduce the risk of Long Covid by 30 to 50 percent. Nevertheless, future data evaluations “must be awaited in order to be able to better assess the potential protective effect of the vaccination against Long Covid,” according to the RKI.
The consequences of multiple infections remain unclear. The virus can damage not only respiratory organs, but also blood vessels and internal organs.
Should I have my child vaccinated?
Stiko currently does not recommend a Covid-19 vaccination (primary vaccination or booster vaccination) for healthy children and young people under the age of 18. In other countries, different vaccination recommendations apply. For example, in the USA they advise Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for vaccination from the age of six months.
Children can also be affected by long-term consequences of a corona infection. Long Covid in children appears to occur less frequently compared to adults.
However, parents can have their children vaccinated against Covid-19 if they wish. Parents can find current vaccination options from their pediatricians or through initiatives such as U12Protection or Education But Sure. For example, the U12Schutz initiative regularly communicates vaccination appointments on the news service X (formerly Twitter); Education But Sicher writes that people who cannot find a vaccination practice can also contact X via direct message.
In rare cases, children and young people can become seriously ill with the so-called PIMS syndrome a few weeks after a corona infection. The risk of an infected person developing PIMS depends heavily on the corona variant. For the variants currently circulating, this results According to the RKI, a PIMS risk from about 1:60,000 to 1:80,000. It should be noted that this risk relates to immune-naïve children and adolescents, who practically no longer exist.
It is irrelevant whether the children have had a corona infection with the typical symptoms or whether the viral disease has no symptoms. In medical parlance, this disease is called “Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children” (MIS-C) or “Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome” (PIMS). After the infection, the immune system of the affected children goes crazy.
You suddenly suffer from fever, swollen lymph nodes and reddened conjunctiva or develop skin rashes. Abdominal pain can also occur, which initially suggests appendicitis. The majority of sick children do not suffer from any previous illnesses. According to the RKI, PIMS is generally easy to treat and has a good prognosis.
Should you wear a mask again now?
Basically everyone can with an FFP2 mask protect well against Covid-19, but also other viruses such as influenza (flu) or the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which circulate in autumn. So if you prefer not to be sick and also want to protect those around you, wear a mask – especially in closed, heavily frequented rooms, such as on buses and trains, in public toilets, at conferences, classrooms, doctor’s offices, etc. Are rooms regularly ventilated with fresh air and with Cleaned with a suitable air filter, the risk of infection is significantly reduced.
The corona vaccination season starts with preparations adapted to current virus variants. However, it is unclear how strong the demand will be.
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