Why protecting yourself against Omikron is still worthwhile

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A young woman gets her booster vaccination in her family doctor’s practice. © Wolfgang Kumm/dpa

The risk of infection from Omikron is extremely high right now. At the same time, the new variant causes milder gradients than Delta on average. A good time to whistle on the Corona rules?

Berlin/Cologne/Rheine – Why should I still try to avoid an infection with the corona virus? Many people ask themselves that. The answers are in the fact check.

Claim: It is unproblematic to be infected with Corona now. You can hardly protect yourself from Omikron anyway, and the new variant is not really dangerous either.

Evaluation: So generally not tenable

Facts: The World Health Organization (WHO) urges that the omicron variant be taken seriously. The narrative that omicron is a normal cold is not true, according to WHO corona expert Maria Van Kerkhove. Because “milder” can, but doesn’t have to mean: A little cold and cough – that’s it.

In the clinical area, courses of Covid-19 are usually described as mild, in which those affected do not suffer from shortness of breath and whose oxygen saturation is above a certain value, explains the head of virology at the Cologne University Hospital, Florian Klein. “You can get pretty sick,” says infectiologist Jana Schroeder from the Mathias-Spital Foundation in Rheine, describing mild corona courses.

The risk of a (relatively) young, healthy, boosted person for a severe course is considered to be very low. However, this cannot be ruled out, and there are other good reasons to protect yourself from infection.

Uncertainty about long-term consequences

Firstly, there is uncertainty among experts when assessing the long-term consequences of the virus. According to infectiologist Schroeder, she feels a great deal of humility in the face of what is not yet known. The data situation is opaque, especially for Omikron. long covid? Incredibly difficult to assess. “If we just let it go now, we would go all in as a society, like playing poker.” That could work somehow. “But there is this elephant in the room: the consequential damage caused by Covid.”

Second: Your own infection may be mild, but overall an explosion in the number of infections can put a massive strain on the healthcare system and other areas of critical infrastructure. Having Corona under control also means being able to adequately care for patients with other diseases, says Schroeder. “If the number of cases is very high, many people are sick at the same time. Of course, this also includes people who belong to the critical infrastructure,” adds Klein. Clinics or companies in the energy and water industry can get into difficulties as a result.

Protecting yourself also helps other people

Third: If you protect yourself from an infection, this also indirectly helps people who (so far) have not been able to protect themselves adequately through vaccination. Virologist Klein first and foremost mentions children and people whose immune system is suppressed. But also older people who have not yet been vaccinated.

Many of us will be infected with omicron in the near future. “The probability of getting infected has increased,” says Klein. However, the known measures – for example reducing contacts and wearing an FFP2 mask in rooms – also work against omicron. It is very likely that the lower dynamics of the omicron wave in Germany compared to Great Britain or Denmark is also due to these measures in this country.

The basic goal is broad basic immunity of the population against the virus in order to get out of the pandemic situation. “Vaccination is the most important tool for this. We are very fortunate to have them,” emphasizes Klein. Infections cannot be completely avoided at the moment, according to the virologist. But it is time to win. The flatter the omicron wave remains, the better the healthcare system can cope with it, for example. It also gives more people time to get vaccinated and boosted. An unchecked explosion in the number of cases, on the other hand, can quickly lead to overload. dpa


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