Coronavirus is here to stay; experts say SARS-CoV-2 literally won’t “go away.”

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The most important countermeasure is full primary immunization plus recommended “boosters.” Covid-19 vaccines are the best-studied drugs in medical history. Austrian experts said at a Praevenire Health Forum talk this Saturday night in Alpbach, Tyrol.

There will always be waves
“The pandemic is certainly here to stay. There will always be waves,” said Gerald Gartlehner, head of the Department of Evidence-Based Medicine and Evaluation at Danube University Krems. He said that if Omicron stays as a “relatively less sickening variant” – exclusive of vulnerable individuals – there will be ever-stronger immunity. If a more dangerous mutation were to “come around the corner,” the situation might look different again.

Florian Thalhammer, president of the Austrian Society for Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, expressed similar sentiments: “The virus is here to stay.” The Covid-19 vaccines represent tremendous progress for the scientist: “I think the vaccines that exist today are the best-studied drugs.” Where would you have drugs with “a billion subjects.” In the case of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, which has been on the market since 1962, one would now, after 60 years, arrive at potential side effects with a frequency of one in three million applications. In the case of the Covid-19 vaccine, the monitoring possibilities for billions of applications within a short time are much better able to detect even infrequent potential side effects.

Too little personal responsibility
According to Thalhammer, however, the problem is: “We have too little personal responsibility. This should be ‘immunized’ against.” The Austrian recommendations are crystal clear, he says. The infectiologist: “We talk about basic immunization with three partial vaccinations. An infection is an immunological event but doesn’t count toward vaccination. The ‘fourth prick’ is recommended for all age groups from five.” Efficacy is exceptionally high at 95 percent, he said. “The Covid vaccine is ’emperor’ next to the flu shot.” Influenza vaccines are only 50 to 60 percent protective.

There are now quite a few different covid-19 vaccines: mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna), vector vaccines (AstraZeneca), and protein-based (Novavax) – most recently, a whole-virus tandem vaccine (Valneva) was also approved in the EU. So there are already a lot of choices. But that’s not the end of it. Christa Wirthumer-Hoche, Head of AGES Medical Market Surveillance: “Vaccines continue to be developed and approved. It is a blessing that we have these vaccines. Everyone should get the ‘fourth prick.'”

It is important to get objective advice, especially from primary care physicians. But the issue of vaccinating against Covid-19 should also not disrupt the entire doctor-patient relationship, explained Erwin Rebhandl, founder of a primary care unit in Upper Austria: “We say ‘It’s not our decision whether you get vaccinated. It’s your decision.’ My experience is that the real vaccination skeptics cannot be made happy with any vaccine. They reject vaccination. With them, we agree to stop arguing.”

Going beyond the law
The chairman of the Austrian Health Insurance Fund, Andreas Huss, mentioned that social health insurance in Austria had assumed new responsibility for vaccinations, especially during the pandemic. There, one had also gone beyond the valid legal situation: Vaccination is the most substantial prevention achievement in the health system. The social health insurance system feels responsible for it. We don’t care what the legislator says about it.” Formerly, the then Main Association of Social Insurance Institutions always pointed out that vaccinations were primarily a matter for the federal government (Prevention, Ministry of Health). The health insurers would be responsible for health care. This finally changed slowly with the implementation of free childhood vaccinations.

In Austria, there is still a considerable need to catch up on Covid-19 vaccination, especially among adolescents and young adults. In the target group of 12- to 14-year-olds, less than 30 percent are vaccinated (as of August 17, 2022); among 15- to 24-year-olds, nearly 50 percent are.

  • source: k.at/picture: pixabay.com
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