Professor Reintjes, what is your prediction regarding the level of corona infections in fall 2022?
Prof. Dr. Ralf Reintjes: We can't predict with certainty how the fall will progress. But if we look at the fall and winter from the perspective of our experiences over the last few years and from an epidemiological point of view, there is much to indicate that very high rates of infection can be expected. Additionally, the absence of many of the protective measures that protected us from simple transmission of the virus over the last few years will make it easier for the virus to spread further in society. This means – as much as it pains me to say so – that we still can't give the all-clear.
How do you view the decisions currently being made by the federal goverment and the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO), and what advice would you give to the citizens of Hamburg?
Ralf Reintjes: From my perspective, many of the decisions currently being made to protect against significant transmission of the virus are well thought out, but some elements do not go far enough.
A mask-wearing requirement for public indoor spaces where many people are present would definitely be advisable to protect a large number of people. We now know from numerous scientific studies that wearing a mask significantly reduces the risk of transmission for respiratory viruses. It is especially effective when everyone in the room wears a mask, and not just those individuals with an increased risk of severe illness.
An adapted vaccine is supposed to be available as of October. The STIKO is also recommending the continued use of the existing vaccine. What is your perspective on the vaccination situation this fall?
Ralf Reintjes: Even though the available vaccine provides limited protection against becoming infected with the virus, it is now clear that vaccination provides quite good protection against a severe course of illness. Since the level of protection provided declines over time in those who are vaccinated, a booster is helpful, and not just for older people.
Because this virus continues to develop via mutation on a regular basis, we are seeing many people getting reinfected, sometimes after a very short time. As a doctor and epidemiologist, I can only encourage everyone to reduce their individual risk of infection as much as possible. In addition to getting a booster, this also means regularly wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and anywhere that lots of people are close together.
Interview: Kathrina Jeorgakopulos/Anke Blacha