Covid could become seasonal epidemic by winter, says German expert

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to become an epidemic by the autumn or winter, which can be expected to recur every year but be controlled by vaccine boosters, according to a leading German virologist.

Christian Drosten has said he believes the number of coronavirus cases will rise after the summer but that the disease will be controllable. While a rise was likely to be described as a “fourth wave”, él dijo, in all probability it would mark the beginning of a “new, endemic phase” or a “seasonal epidemic” that would recur for several years but could be kept under control by vaccine top-ups.

Drosten, the head of virology at Berlin’s university hospital, the Charité, who has been a key and consistent voice advising government and public health policymakers throughout the pandemic, said that despite clear indications the virus was increasingly under control, this was in danger of being undermined by people failing to get their second jab or believing that vaccines were no longer necessary.

“At the moment we are in a transition phrase,” Drosten said on Corona Update, a popular weekly podcast on the German radio station NDR. “The next goal which we have to have in our sights as a society is for 80% of the adult population to have been fully vaccinated.” He said all expectations were for Germany to have reached that goal by the end of August or mid-September. Currently 23% have received a full vaccination and 47% have had had one dose.

Germany is emerging from a third wave of the virus and its more restrictive lockdown yet. In the latest lifting of restrictions, on Wednesday schools in Berlin switched from split classes or part-time teaching to regular modus for the first time in months. On average 800,000 to 1.2m vaccine doses are being administered each day, as a campaign that started just over five months ago and was initially slow to get off the ground is now in full swing.

Drosten said key topics of discussion over the coming months would be the vaccination of children and gauging how quickly those who have been vaccinated lose their immunity.

“Probably it will especially be the older people who don’t react so strongly to the vaccine anyway, who will show a clear loss of immunity after half or a whole year, while young people are not so likely to do so," él dijo.

By the autumn he expects to see an “increasingly competitive picture of immune escape variants because the population’s immune status will be more heterogeneous”. Currently, él dijo, all eyes are on the Delta variant, first discovered in India, which is spreading fast across the UK but which currently makes up only about 2% of new cases in Germany.

Drosten said he expected it to become more prominent in Germany over the next few weeks, but not necessarily as dominant as it is in the UK.

His biggest concern he said, was a lack of willingness among Germans to be vaccinated, and he said new attempts would have to be made to motivate people.

“We have some groups who have not yet been vaccinated, we have those who’ve been vaccinated once and have then lost the drive to get the second one, we’ve got children – and all these groups will have to exist side by side.” He said he expected this to lead to local outbreaks, but “not to a pandemic wave any more”.

In the coming winter the expected rise in cases, particularly as the advantage of a “summer effect” is lost, “will likely be interpreted in future as having been the first endemic, normal winter effect”. Covid-19 would behave like more established coronavirus varieties that induce cold-like symptoms, él dijo.

los comentarios están cerrados.