…an in-depth interview by our frantic reporter Nixus Minimax, given on January 14 , 2022, published in three parts.
Part II, published on January 18, 2022
Started in February 2020, the SAJO blog is providing a thread through the pandemic with up-to-date information and suggestions around SARS-CoV-2.
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Welcome back to part II of the interview!
In part I we discussed topics around vaccination. Part II tells more about the virus, about mandatory vaccination and how more people may be convinced to get a vaccine.
Nixus Minimax: Sabine und Jörg, what is the problem with this virus?
Sabine and Jörg: Coronaviruses used to have the reputation that they were changing very slowly. The elements, that provide this stability, have changed in SARS-CoV-2. It mutates at a much faster pace than its siblings, as we see at the moment.
This helped the virus to easily overcome the species barrier. It means the virus may jump back and forth from humans and many mammalian species, when given the chance. The ACE-2 receptor the virus uses to enter cells is found in animals too. Thus, the virus is confronted with different immune systems, which it adapts to, overcoming the immunity. In a comparison: You might call this an “obstacle course”. The obstacles are given by the immune system. The virus is “learning” how to skirt them.
All these circumstances are resulting in a fast-paced change in the coronavirus, and that many variants already exist somewhere.
Some of them will manage to spread globally, coming from humans as well as from animals, and at every place where humans and animals are in close contact. Examples include zookeepers, veterinarians, hunters, lumbermen, and people with pet mammals, and those enjoying the outdoors. This provides a strong zoonosis potential.
The Chinese authorities have realized this. After three COVID-19 cases in a Hong Kong pet shop, authorities found several hamsters, that had been imported from the Netherlands, carrying SARS-CoV-2. Now all 2000 hamsters are to be culled for fear of animal-to-human transmission.
The Washington Post and the South China Morning Post reported: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/3163775/coronavirus-hong-kong-leader-worried-about-community-outbreak?module=lead_hero_story&pgtype=homepage
Chinese authorities won’t take a risk, since only a part of the population has been vaccinated, and the Zero-COVID strategy resulted in only few infections. In February, China is hosting the Winter Olympics.
Of course, again there is a political reflex. The virus is coming from other countries! A further example of such panic reactions is the positive PCR result coming from a letter that was sent from Canada. Now, all shipments are being disinfected. What an overreaction. A viral particle sitting on an envelope or a box for weeks, is inactivated. But let’s go back to our topic:
To us, the MCA is the transmission pathway, which the virus utilizes to spread while giving rise to more and more variants. It simply spreads through the air, by aerosols mostly.
We want to mention HIV for a comparison. Since 2000 we are working on HIV, together with many renowned colleagues in the US. HIV is mutating very fast when replicating. A single AIDS patient carries numerous mutant variants. These variations enabled our colleagues to pinpoint the events that led to the initial infection of humans from apes a hundred years ago. The HIV transmission pathway however is very much manageable. HIV is being transmitted through bodily fluids, such as during sexual intercourse or via blood, when the viral load is high.
SARS-CoV-2 is spreading through the very air we breathe. It is becoming more and more efficient in doing so. One single infected individual breathing in a closed space is enough to infect all people present for a while, should there be no precautions such as air exchange and/or N95 masks, that interrupt the transmission pathway.
Nixus: What are your thoughts about a mandatory vaccination?
SAJO: There are arguments both for and against it.
Quite frankly, we do understand our Health-Minister, who does not want to yet again have these repeated discussions, to mobilize people in summer and fall to get their shots, knowing that another wave is incoming. It is a tiring and exhausting strenuous effort. From that point of view, we are for a mandatory vaccination. Once this is organized, it would be easy to keep running for the coming years.
As we have pointed out before, there are certain jobs, that should require full vaccination, immediately. Among others, these include all healthcare-related jobs, schools and education, child-care, critical infrastructure, politicians, and all personnel working there, and generally everyone having many personal contacts. We would include those who are in close contact to animals.
A strong argument against a mandate would be, that an obligation will divide the people even further, with a minority that is continuing on a path to radicalization. A mandatory vaccination will lead to unrest and riots, putting the country in danger. This development we are watching with serious concern.
A general vaccine mandate would put Europe, not just Germany, and other countries into a logistical nightmare. There needs to be enough vaccine, and the vaccine needs to reach the people. Previously, medical practices were overwhelmed, vaccines were sold out or just not delivered. In the past, this was chaotic, a total logistic and organization failure. This is where the challenge lies, in organization and implementation.
Another point speaking against a vaccination mandate is the fact, that actually everyone would have to get booster shots once every four months, which again will put even more pressure upon logistics, organization, medical doctors, all people involved. The vaccines would need to be produced in much larger amounts. The latter might be solvable by continued federal funding with tax money. Distortion of competition is being ignored in a crisis. We don’t think this is right. We are entrepreneurs. It distorted the market.
You know, the vaccines are a great achievement, and they continue to be so. They will continue to play an important role and they need to be adjusted to new variants. However, vaccines alone will not do the job of an exit strategy. They will lose activity against new variants, and they only provide protection for 3-4 months with a bulwark of antibodies.
Vaccines are only produced once a pathogen is known. Expectations that after such a short development time they would give a 100 % protection, and protection from infection are just not accomplishable. The vaccination protects for 3-4 months from a severe or deadly disease, but vaccination will not bring us IN FRONT OF a wave.
We understand that wishful thinking and hope and despair are running rampant, but let’s stay realistic.
Before considering a vaccine mandate, education and information should be given, big time. We are missing the ad campaigns. In the 80s and 90s there were huge campaigns. Do you remember the slogans dealing with AIDS, or drugs? Such a nationwide campaign is missing. Where are the celebrities, getting a vaccine with a broad smile on their face? We even had to check if the German center for health education is still existing! We do not hear them.
Another opportunity would come from the health insurances. Each year, they are sending letters to their clients calling to fill out an organ donor card. Each year we receive letters with information about cancer prevention programs, or sports events that are supported by the insurances. Here the health insurances could include a call to vaccinate. And if possible, including a list of regional vaccination centers. The insurances should have a financial interest when it comes to vaccines. In the end, they have to pay for the ICU treatments, and Long-COVID will become a problem for them as well.
Another suggestion would be for the insurances to give an attractive discount to those individuals who share their vaccine certificate. And those who still refuse a vaccine could pay higher premiums.
If you advertise on all channels, more people will decide to get the shot, eventually. And a mandatory vaccination will not be necessary. Get vaccinated! It is cool and it saves lifes!
Nixus: Did you get your shots?
Sabine and Jörg: Of course we did. You don’t want to face this virus without protection, since you never know how you will end up after an infection. Irrespective of your age, it is just realistic thinking.
We went with full protection into fall (BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna) and we shall receive a booster shot.
Irrespective of being vaccinated, we do wear N95 masks indoors (outside our home). Outdoors, we keep a polite 6 ft. distance, whatever the weather.
Finally, we are avoiding risky situations, such as restaurants, and many others.
Nixus Minimax: This wraps up part II of the interview with Sabine and Jörg, two infectious disease researchers. In part III tomorrow you will hear about ways to fight the pandemic, or if it is not worth the fight. Stay tuned. Yours, Nixus Minimax, frantic reporter.
SAJO – for a healthy and better future!
SAJO is consulting all around infectious diseases. We are applying our know-how, that we have acquired in more than 20 years. We do what we can to fight this pandemic.
We thank Oliver Hoogvliet for his wonderful cartoons. It is always a pleasure! ollihoo (https://hoogvliet.de).
This is post No. 210. To our delight our blog is receiving a lot of acceptance, we love to share our know-how and expertise. Please feel free to share the link – it is an informative tool to fight this pandemic. We would appreciate, if our German colleagues in medicine and politics cited us when retrieving information from here.
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