Omicron subvariant BA.5: Are we threatened with a corona summer?

With the spreading omicron subvariant BA.5, experts expect that the corona virus will not disappear from the scene in the summer.

“We are not experiencing an infection-free summer this year, but this is not initially a threat,” said the head of Charité virology, Christian Drosten, at the request of the German Press Agency. In autumn and winter there will probably be a long wave of infections. Medical President Klaus Reinhardt called on the Federal Ministry of Health to coordinate arrangements with the federal states.

Prepare for fall now

In the past, the back and forth between those involved had significantly shaken the population’s trust in pandemic management, Reinhardt criticized in Berlin. Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt said “Zeit online”: “We should decide on an agreement on the goals before the summer break.” FDP Vice Wolfgang Kubicki asked Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to prepare the clinics for possible challenges in the fall in good time. The Corona Expert Council gave the minister “a wealth of tasks”, said Kubicki to the editorial network Germany (RND).

The day before, the experts had outlined three possible scenarios for autumn and winter and called for an adequate legal basis for quick reactions. How exactly the infection situation will develop by then is difficult to estimate, as the epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb said. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the seven-day incidence in Germany has been rising again for a few days, on Thursday it was 276.9.

Subvariant BA.5 still at a low level

New data on the distribution of the omicron subvariant BA.5 are expected in the RKI weekly report in the evening. Most recently, the proportion had doubled in a sample every week, but still at a low level.

Drosten explained that he was “a little worried” about developments in Portugal, where not only the incidence but also the number of deaths increased. “There are no obvious explanations for this, because other European countries also have BA.5 increases without an increase in mortality. We’ll know in a month if something similar is happening to us.”

Worrying development in Portugal

From Zeeb’s point of view, the situation in Portugal should also be a warning for Germany. “In neighboring Spain, however, the numbers have not gone as high, which already indicates that regional circumstances, vaccination processes and immunity and protective behavior definitely play a role.” In this respect, he does not expect an increase in incidence to the very high values ​​that were reached in the first omicron wave.

Regardless of whether there is a summer corona wave or not, preparations for the fall would have to be made anyway, said Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck on Wednesday evening on ARD. Politicians have many protective instruments such as vaccination and masks at hand.

In his own words, Drosten expects “another long-lasting wave of infections” in autumn and winter, with a particularly large number of lost work days as a result if no interventions have taken place in the meantime. There are two reasons for this: “Firstly, the majority of the population will lose transmission protection by autumn, especially since the variants that are now circulating are even more transmissible. Secondly, because of the vaccination success achieved, politicians will initially use fewer controls. »

Drosten assumes that there will be many cases by October at the latest. Unlike a severe flu epidemic, this could last until March and put a strain on personnel-sensitive areas. “It will be difficult to mitigate this with a vaccination campaign alone,” explained the virologist. Anyone who does not yet have a vaccination should “once again be encouraged to do so”. Drosten advised older people and people who belong to a risk group to talk to their doctor about a refresher.

Omicron vaccines available in September at the earliest

Lauterbach expects vaccines adapted to the Omicron variants in the fall. He doesn’t expect it until September at the earliest, said the SPD politician on Thursday on Deutschlandfunk. This is being worked on intensively. There is promising data from Moderna, and they are also in contact with Biontech.

The company Moderna presented the first data on the effectiveness of its adapted corona vaccine on Wednesday. “mRNA-1273.214”, as the booster is called, is a combination of the original Moderna vaccine Spikevax and a vaccine candidate specially tailored to the omicron variant. In the total of 437 subjects in the clinical study who had received the new preparation as a second booster, the scientists found significantly more neutralizing antibodies after one month than after a booster vaccination with the conventional preparation, especially against the omicron variant. The vaccination is well tolerated, side effects correspond to those after the conventional booster.

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