Christine Falk in conversation with Julius Stucke

Will the virus soon run out of steam? (imago / fStop Images / Malte Müller)

The incidence values ​​are increasing now – just as our mobility is increasing. It is these two factors that worry immunologist Christina Falk. In order to avoid a winter with confinement and to protect the little ones, all that remains is to be vaccinated.

Julius Stucke: Masks, distance and hygiene – let’s be honest: sometimes the smell of disinfectants was perhaps a little more present in everyday life than the smell of human sweat, for example. I don’t want to rate this at all, you can find this or that better.

In any case, our distance from the pathogens was better. We not only protected ourselves against Corona, but also better against colds or other nasty everyday infections. Who can have gastrointestinal disturbances?

But has our immune system perhaps forgotten something? If we let go of masks and distances again, are we perhaps more vulnerable to infections? I would like to talk to Christine Falk about it, but also about the current pandemic situation and the progress or not of vaccination. She is president of the German Society for Immunology. Hello Hello !

Christine Falk: Hello!

Stucke: Since June, data from the Robert Koch Institute shows that many people have caught colds. Why is it just noticeable? Has our immune system really forgotten how to defend itself against these more harmless infections?

Falk: Fortunately, the immune system can’t unlearn anything because it’s still working. We don’t even notice it, but it’s still active. We are not in a sterile room, but we move outside, we have contact with the air we breathe, with all possible antigens and allergens and whatever else you may have – despite the contact restrictions and distance and AHA + L rules. So the immune system is normally active, you just don’t notice it.

We just noticed the reverse, that it was actually very pleasant, as a little side effect, so to speak, that we don’t catch colds or other infections because we have distance and masks, etc. And now it is somewhat visible that there are still viruses with which you can catch a cold in a normal way.

It’s more of an effect that we notice it now and think, “Oops, what’s going on now? But our immune system is, so to speak, still active for us and cannot lose its power to act against antigens.

No negative impact on the child’s immune system

Stucke: Does that also apply to the little ones among us, whom we have thankfully forgotten in this pandemic: children, who are only boosting their immune systems in one way or another, or is there no cause for concern?

Falk: The kids aren’t completely in a sterile room, just like us. This means: even if you keep your distance, wear a mask and follow the rules of hygiene, it is still true that children play, come into contact with dirt, which they should, and there is always contact. , although less numerous.

Therefore, it can be assumed that it does not make any difference for the immune system of the child, for his development, because he still has enough reasons to be active, to learn, to build himself, for these measures that we have to be very effective against the coronavirus. , but does not damage the immune system as a result.

Stucke: This means that if the Robert Koch Institute warns of a parallel rise in SARS-CoV-2, influenza and the RS virus, which also causes cold symptoms, is this a warning you do not share ?

Lots of new infections and greater mobility

Falk: I wouldn’t see this as a warning, but rather as a clarification: if we have more contacts again – which is the case, the mobility data also shows that we are back on the branch. extremely increased mobility and contact – that other infections can then be expected to return.

We have reported 10,000 new infections since yesterday, which means we have a lot of contact. Unfortunately, the virus can spread very heavily, especially among the unvaccinated. I see the problem here rather that we now have to try to control the spread of the virus rather than wondering if maybe we have diminished too much and the immune system no longer recognizes others as well, which is wrong. all the case.

The call is really to think about the contacts and our measures, how we can contain the spread of the virus, and get vaccinated, please.

Stucke: It happened, even though the call for vaccination was different, it happened before after the summer we had some kind of crash with sober reality. It may have changed a bit now with the vaccination. How optimistic do you currently view fall / winter? That sounds rather pessimistic to you.

Those who do not get vaccinated will be infected

Falk: I’m always on the optimistic side because you can see how well the vaccination works. The Robert Koch Institute always publishes the weekly report, and there you can see how well the vaccination works because the people who are now infected are mostly from the unvaccinated population.

Nonetheless, I have to say that the numbers over 10,000 a day are something that worries me as it can be assumed that there will be people who will eventually get more seriously ill.

That is why I am making an urgent appeal to have a vaccination, please, because it is the best individual protection and at the same time protects society and children.

So I would say, folks, let’s stop doing the wave because getting infected is never a good idea. Long-COVID may come, we cannot get this virus under control.

My call would really be to fight this virus together and to prepare well for fall / winter through vaccination and AHA + L and testing. So I’m optimistic, but we’re not getting it for free, we have to do something.

Stucke: Some people say or think, “Oh, oh, but I hear so many people who get vaccinated and then get infected. This is a point that has of course been discussed here and there, but it may not be repeated often enough. You can relate that relatively well to the numbers, which is the problem of the breakthrough in vaccination.

Virtually no breakthrough in vaccination

Falk: Advances in immunization are presented very well in this weekly report. There are very few people vaccinated and infected, that is, the vast majority are unvaccinated people who become infected.

And those who are still infected despite vaccination belong to the older group. This is a very clear association with previous illnesses and older age.

The normal population under the age of 70, so to speak, that is vaccinated, is extremely well protected, and these vaccine advances are very rare, and if they do, then you don’t get seriously ill and you don’t usually go to the hospital – unless there’s something else that’s underneath, so to speak. In this regard: vaccination protects really well.

Stucke: Your call, some people here have heard it, but not all of those who haven’t been vaccinated. If we now theoretically assume that many of them will ultimately not be vaccinated, what happens in the fall, in the winter? So do we have some sort of situation where most of them are infected, which is herd immunity at a high price?

Falk: It looks like it, because it won’t be possible to escape this virus. We already have a high number, we have a lot of contacts, we have more mobility again and people will be infected whether they want to or not if they do not get the vaccine.

In fact, I see it this way that we will “live” next year – and the question is what the price is. I would like it to be very low. I would like good vaccine protection and few infected people.

I’m afraid it is still not clear how well we will fare, so I would like to stress again: getting the vaccine is the best option, because otherwise you will be infected whether you want to or not.

And we have to please protect the children together, this is also a very important aspect for vaccination.

Stucke: What about children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated? Are they threatened with the next confinement?

Low incidence values ​​are protection for children

Falk: That’s exactly the question. If we have so many viruses in society then the risk is simply higher that those children, for whom there is no vaccination, will also be infected because we also want school and daycare to take place. , because it is much more than school and daycare, it is all social life.

And so, a low virus count is a good strategy. Then you can better protect children. A high number of viruses carries a higher risk that they will end up getting infected, and you don’t want them. In this regard, advocate to keep the numbers as low as possible, if possible.

The statements of our interlocutors reflect their own opinions. Deutschlandfunk Kultur does not adopt the statements of its interlocutors in interviews and discussions.