…an in-depth interview by our frantic reporter Nixus Minimax, given on January 14 , 2022, published in three parts.
Part III, published on January 19, 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 III 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.
In part III we discuss how to fight the pandemic and if it is worth to do so.
Questions to Dr. Jörg Baumann and Dr. Sabine Breun, both experienced scientists, tough guys (as named by their colleagues), who since the 1990s work on infectious diseases. They have international reputation, and cooperate with their US colleagues since their time at the National Institutes of Health.
Nixus Minimax: Sabine and Jörg, how may we fight this pandemic? Is it even possible?
Sabine and Jörg: This pandemic can be fought against. In numerous posts we had described ways how every single person can deal with the threat, and how politics may act responsibly.
Our politicians are losing credibility. They should decide if they want to lull people in the short-term using a feeling of wellness, thereby losing trust in the long run, or if they were to choose honesty to gain trust. We would choose the latter. Switching between both strategies, as we see it today, will only lead to uncertainty. And the Christian Democrats, now suddenly in opposition, are pointing to their own mistakes of the past, a nagging difficult to bear for the public.
An example to illustrate this: Imagine a manned ship with one captain, about to be sinking in a storm, may be led either of two ways:
- The captain tells the crew not to worry, the storm will subside soon. In the end the ship sinks. You may ask if the captain was just cowardly, or miscalculated, or was plain incompetent.
- The captain calls for all hands on deck, to cooperate and save the ship as well as the crew. In a cooperative effort in the end, they make it.
The metaphor is using the crew as the people, and the captain as the politicians, with the chancellor in top position accompanied by the health minister and the head of the German Robert-Koch-Institute. At the moment, situation 1 is being favored with no clear direction. We would strongly advise to run situation 2.
In summary, currently we do have three useful tools at hand:
It starts with education to change individual behavior. Risky situations need to be avoided.
Vaccination is another tool to protect oneself from severe disease.
A central tool ever since Delta took the stage is the donning of N95 masks within buildings. And these need to stay in place. Too often we see that the masks are only donned after entering a room, or they are doffed later on, such as in restaurants. As a result, the protection is gone.
Another problem is the release of non-functional rapid tests. This is a scandal. With a lot of effort this was introduced, just to find out that many tests produce false negative results. This is dangerous. And it is just ridiculous that the certification of tests by the vendors themselves was allowed.
The federal health minister announced a list of the most accurate tests, which also detect omicron. This list is being eagerly awaited. However, rapid tests have their disadvantages strategically, since the virus is outpacing them.
Thus we recommend companies test their personnel twice a week via PCR tests. Some companies are doing this already. It means more effort, but also more safety. A negative test means there is no virus. Costs and test numbers may be reduced by pool testing of 10 people in one PCR reaction. This is speeding up the process significantly. Only if one test is positive, the pool must be tested individually. Samples may be taken at home in the morning, and provided to the company, school, child-care. Transported via courier service they will come up with results within hours.
Actually, companies should have a vital interest in their employees’ wellbeing. But this seems to be the case in few businesses we see. There, we see responsibility with the workers’ councils. They should enforce fair working conditions. This includes a workplace that does not compromise the workforce’s health. Unfortunately, we have the feeling many workers’ councils only press for shorter hours and higher wages.
Where is the call of these councils for healthier work conditions? This may be accomplished by proper air conditioning and N95 mask mandates. Where are the unions? We don’t hear them. It is in vogue to go on strike for more money, but not for better health. This, we find disturbing.
We do have more advice regarding further necessary steps. This expertise we are open to share upon request. It would simply go beyond the scope of this blog format.
In addition, this pandemic can only be fought in a global effort. This is one point where we disagree with the federal minister of health. While rich countries are talking about three to four shots annually, many African countries are fighting to even get a first shot. This needs a global effort. It would only be fair for western countries to share the doses they cannot use with COVAX, but way before the expiry date. For one thing continues to be forgotten:
New viral variants are developing in areas with low vaccination and monitoring rates. We shall see more variants this year.
Nixus: What happens once the Greek alphabet is used up?
Jörg (amused): That will be the end of the pandemic since the virus does speak Greek only.
Nixus: How about simply letting the pandemic roll?
Sabine and Jörg: You mean let the virus spread through the population unhindered, with all the consequences?
This is – from ethical, moral, and medical perspectives – NOT acceptable. We find this idea cynic.
The thought of just letting go is rooted in frustration and the hope of quickly attaining herd immunity. A sign of helplessness.
Without brakes new infections would double every four to five days. Within just three weeks we would have more than 1,000,000 new infections daily. Even if Omicron puts fewer patients into ICUs, the sheer number of infections will overwhelm hospitals. Not everyone will get help. One thing rarely being communicated: If too many personnel are sick in critical areas (hospitals, fire departments, police, power supply etc.) this would have dramatic consequences.
Now we know that the number of deaths caused by this virus is double to quadruple the previous calculations. Globally, the official count we know of is 5.5 million deaths. https://media.nature.com/original/magazine-assets/d41586-022-00104-8/d41586-022-00104-8.pdf
Please think about what it would mean, if we let this pandemic run with such death rates and the high rate of long-COVID patients.
The damage – also as a society – would be too great. Such a total loss is NOT JUSTIFIABLE. We are no longer in the Dark Ages, but in an enlightened and advanced democratic society. We should use this advantage. The necessary tools are at hand to slow down this virus. Hence, ADAPTATION IS AN OPTION. Adaptation does not mean to ignore it. We must learn how to live with this latent threat. The necessary measures we had presented often enough.
Nixus: Sabine and Jörg, you are writing this blog – more than 200 posts already – sharing your expertise. Why are you doing this?
Sabine and Jörg: When the pandemic started, we realized that most people were helpless in this new situation. We offered our know-how and experience through the blog, to help in a crisis.
The blog is getting quite some reception by many readers who want to get information from an independent and reputable source.
Our blog does not give us any profit, once in a while we give a hint as to what SAJO offers. Of course, we hope to spread the news about SAJO. SAJO is short for “SAbine and JOerg”. Our mission statement is innovation in infectious diseases and the fight against pandemics. As a team of infectious disease researchers, we are working together since 1997, 25 years, starting at the university. First, we published and patented one of Jörg’s ideas. After graduation (M.Sc. and Ph.D., respectively) we went to the United States on competitive US stipends. Afterwards, we returned to Germany to start our own lab with our own ideas. This resulted in the establishment of a department and later our own company SAJO. SAJO is independent and highly innovative.
Sabine: I think, restrictions and injustice made us so uncomfortable that we escaped by further developments, further ideas. Without this pressure we might not be where we are now. Our way always went forward with our efforts and our skills. Right into independence.
The blog is gaining more readers each year. The blog is supporting through our insights and experience. Our blog is helping in finding a thread and direction during the pandemic. We are aware of the responsibility, and we are trying to give our best.
Through dissemination and multipliers, we are reaching millions, not just in Germany, but around the world.
This makes us happy, and we hope this helps in fighting this pandemic.
The amount of work we put into this blog is significant: We are going through all the relevant and reliable scientific literature to summarize findings. We are using our decades of experience.
This is being complemented by philosophical and psychological knowledge, and many reports and observations from reputable international sources.
The summary of background research from international literature, forming the basis of this blog, is comprehensive, profound, reliable, and well researched. We indicate the key sources.
Our biggest advantage is being a team, we are having intense discussion, many disputes, we are combining and transferring. This, and the power of deduction are some of our strengths.
The sugar on top of our texts are illustrations by Olli (Oliver Hoogvliet, Ollihoo), and photographs by Michel Kitenge (mkpoint Aachen, Germany). The nature and lab photos are ours. We are striving for posts worth reading that also are entertaining.
Humor is a central means to us, to make people smile and to motivate. Never lose your humor, it makes life worth living.
We want to make a point that we are open to guest posts and to people who want to contribute.
Of course, it would be nice if those who take our work for granted and use it for themselves, or even sell it as their own ideas, had the courtesy to cite us, to name us as their source. But we know from previous years of experience, that it is easy for some to just help themselves. Plagiarism unfortunately is in vogue in politics and even at universities. This behavior is unacceptable in reputable science and journalism; there, citations are necessary. In Germany this is a bit different: We want to let you know that we like being cited; if you bring our work – which is more than just to summarize literature – that you are using, in context with our names. This would be just fair.
Nixus: Sabine and Jörg, what is moving you personally in this situation?
Sabine and Jörg: The whole situation is disturbing. Maybe most of all it makes us helpless, since with new drugs of an entirely new generation, such as SAJO is offering to develop, we would have one more powerful tool to use in this pandemic.
One thing we are being confronted with sometimes: Why you? We think we are just too nice and friendly. In Germany, many people mistake cordiality and politeness with naivete and incompetence.
Many experts think it takes far too long to develop new agents or compounds. Well, using outdated technology surely does, if you do not have innovative ways.
Personally, we have made the experience that nowadays, too many Germans consider themselves as virologists, without ever having studied the discipline or seen a laboratory from within. This utter overconfidence and arrogance are irritating.
All too often, Sabine is being “taught” by male individuals who think they know better in virology. Chauvinism is still rampant in Germany.
It is irritating that too many are resistant to advice. Each and everyone seems to know better than the experts. This is the desire to be above the rest. Well, we in contrast find it as a gift, to be able to keep on learning all your life. To go through this world with open eyes to us is the greatest gift. Nature is teaching us lessons now. This makes us humble, since we know nature is stronger than humanity.
And, yes, we accept all the true experts in their field. This means exchange and acceptance, respect and openness. This is a good premise to cooperate with many different people.
Nixus: What are your plans for 2022?
Sabine and Jörg: We are trying to give to the society to ameliorate this situation. Solidarity and fairness are key to us. Society needs cohesion. Forgiveness, acceptance, respect, recognition, a pinch of humor, confidence, and love are keeping a society together.
Our advice would be to avoid changes that further divide the society, which sooner or later will put our democracy in jeopardy. Even if we do not understand and cannot reach the antivaxxers and the extremists, these fringe groups are part of our society. These groups are mostly frightened. Putting them under pressure is counterproductive.
The effects of a divided nation may be observed in the US. In fact, we are facing this avoidable situation pretty helplessly. With the notable exception of the Cheney family, all republicans seem to be followers of a fool, thus undermining democracy. Self-interest and personal advantages at the expense of the public may drive a society close to civil war. And we have to say, a civil war will affect the republicans as well as the others.
May everyone in power not abuse it, but use it wisely, to let others live their lives in peace.
Nixus: These are assertive words at the end of our interview. Thanks to you and all the best. For all of us, I do hope that we get the SAJO drugs soon.
Thank you very much for the pleasant interview atmosphere.
Yours, Nixus Minimax, frantic reporter. As you might have guessed, Nixus Minimax is my alias.
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. 212. 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.
(Note: We are no members of political parties, religious congregations, or societies. We value independence, sovereignty, and freedom. With our blog we are providing purely scientific advice, without conflict of interest, altruistic. We are not being paid for it.)
SAJO’s heart is the hightechnology, that enables us to find and to isolate antivirals and antibacterials of the next generation, which are then developed to new drugs. These are SAJO’s unique selling points and strength.
#1 Should you like to have SAJO antivirals or antibacterials, or to give a contract, or need consultation, or to invest into SAJO, please do not hesitate to contact us. You may use the formular at our homepage or phone number or email.
#2 On a regular basis we are asked for ideas. For ideas please feel free to contact us as well. You may use the formular at our homepage or phone number or email.
The SAJO business model: https://www.sajo-innovation.de/sajo-Flyer.pdf