Effectiveness Over Time & Delta

On Sunday, Metropole brings you a COVID-19 update from Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer, an Austrian virologist who works and teaches at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

May 9, 2021

Here is my weekly COVID-19 update again.

To date, 158 million official SARS-CoV-2 infections have been recorded and 3,298,000 people have officially died from COVID-19. Over 1.28 billion doses of vaccine have been administered to date. Globally, we are now (hopefully) over the last peak.

Improving Situation in Europe

In Europe, the situation looks quite good. With a few exceptions, case numbers are going down almost everywhere. Some model students have stable and very very low case numbers (UK, Portugal).

A few countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Greece are still struggling to get case numbers down. In Denmark, there are slight increases, but their caseloads are basically very low.

By the way, Iceland, Norway and Finland have held up best in Europe in terms of deaths per capita during the pandemic (all below 200 deaths/million population – for comparison, Sweden is at about 1,400 deaths/million population).

Downward Trends in the Americas

The U.S. looks very good, with the trend continuing to point downwards. Canada sees a slight decrease in infection numbers, Mexico’s case numbers continue to go down consistently.

Brazil is stable at a very high level, but unfortunately case numbers are not decreasing. The rest of Central and South America is either at peak or above, with exceptions such as Bolivia or Costa Rica, where case numbers are still rising strongly.

Mixed Situation in Asia

In Asia, the situation is very mixed. Japan is coming down from a wave. Many countries, including South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. are holding up extremely well.

Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, etc. are in a wave – the first for Thailand and Cambodia. Cases in Nepal, Kazakhstan, Georgia, etc. are also going up. And while Pakistan and Bangladesh are seeing declining case numbers, the situation in India is dramatic.

The numbers went up very quickly in the beginning and have now leveled off at 400,000 cases per day. Possibly because testing and hospital capacity has been exceeded in some Indian states. One can only hope that case numbers there will soon begin to fall.

Falling Case Numbers in the Middle East & Africa

In the Middle East, with the exception of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt (where there are sharp increases), case numbers are actually falling everywhere. Israel now has a 7-day average of 57 cases per day and one death per day – trending downwards! (Israel and Austria have about the same population).

Africa looks pretty good, except for Angola, where case numbers are rising sharply. South Africa has few cases but is seeing a slight increase. Remember, South Africa is a largely unvaccinated country that tests a lot and where it is now fall/winter. So that’s a model for what could happen in Europe in the fall if vaccination coverage is too low.

Vaccines for the Young

Some other news.

Pfizer is likely to get approval for the 12+ vaccine in the US within the next few days. An application has also been filed in Europe for ages 12-15. Studies in younger children are ongoing. By the way, Pfizer has now also applied for regular approval in the USA (at the moment, it is still an emergency approval).

By the way, there is now a large study on COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant women that has published data and found no problems. Here’s the link, if anyone is interested.

And then there is more data on mRNA vaccines and protection against the B.1.351 variant in Qatar. The protection there against this variant (which is actually now the worst of all “escape variants”) was about 79% – so very good. Here is the link to the study.

When Will the Pandemic Be Over?

I wanted to talk about two more things.

Many people ask when the pandemic is going to be over. I think there will be global differences.

I expect the pandemic in North America and Europe to end in the summer if vaccination coverage is good.

In countries without good vaccine coverage, it will probably drag on.

I think it really has to be a priority to make vaccines available to everyone everywhere.

So far, that hasn’t worked out very well.

Vaccination Coverage

The second point is this.

In the U.S., as case numbers have decreased, we have also seen a decrease in vaccination enthusiasm (although skepticism has also decreased).

In Europe, demand is still stronger than vaccine supply. But that will also change and people will simply not get vaccinated because there will be fewer cases and people will start to forget about the problem.

But you have to consider the following: It is very likely that we will not be able to eliminate the virus. While it will probably not cause any major problems, it will most likely continue to be with us as a seasonal virus (as well as influenza viruses, other human coronaviruses, RSV, parainfluenza viruses, etc.).

This means that anyone who does not have immunity or does not get vaccinated will probably contract COVID-19 at some point in their life.

So, please get vaccinated.

Stay healthy! Best regards!

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Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer
Prof. Krammer is the Principal Investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC). Currently Prof. Krammer holds a position as a Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He has published more than 100 papers, is member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, Plos One and Heliyon and is a peer reviewer for more than 30 journals.

Current Status

If you live in Vienna, make sure to register for getting a vaccine against COVID-19 under impfservice.wien.  Here you can book your vaccination appointment.

The City of Vienna offers free vaccinations without an appointment to everyone – regardless of citizenship, residency or insurance status – at multiple locations across the city. 

Vienna has reinstated a number of coronavirus restrictions for the fall. The Austrian government has presented a plan for schools and universities.  

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna and how the free PCR “gargle” tests at home work. 

If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Numbers

For current coronavirus numbers, check the website of Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also publishes daily vaccination statistics and a preview of scheduled deliveries.

Resources

The City of Vienna has compiled comprehensive information on questions and answers regarding coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in English.

The Austrian Ministry of Health has put together FAQs on the coronavirus and also provides material to download on how to protect yourself and others from the disease, also in English.

Furthermore, the ministry will constantly update its German-language website with information on the number of people tested and cases of COVID-19 in Austria.

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone1450

If you show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties) or fear that you are ill, stay at home and dial health number 1450 for further procedures (diagnostic clarification).

Coronavirus hotline AGES+43 0800 555 621

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) answers questions about the coronavirus (general information on transmission, symptoms, prevention) 24 hours a day at +43 0800 555 621.

VKI hotline for travel law questions+43 0800 201 211

For legal questions concerning trips that have already been booked (e.g. whether a trip can be cancelled free of charge), the experts of the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) provide advice free of charge from Monday to Sunday between 09:00 and 15:00 at +43 0800 201 211.