Get Your Booster Shot Now!

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.

October 31, 2021

A week late, here comes my COVID-19 update again (I wanted to wait for the FDA decision on vaccinating children).

So far, 247 million official SARS-CoV-2 infections have been detected, 5,012,000 people have officially died from COVID-19. Over 7 billion doses of vaccine have been administered to date. The global situation does not look so bad, Europe is, unfortunately, the negative exception.

What’s Going on in Europe?

OK, what is the current situation in Europe? Portugal, Spain, France and Sweden are holding up well and still have few cases. In Italy, the number of cases is also low but there has been a slight increase.

A slight increase in infections was also recorded in Switzerland, and a stronger increase in Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Czechia, Hungary, Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria (stronger in some countries, less in others).

In Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Belarus, Slovakia, Croatia, the Baltic States, and Slovenia, this one seems to be the strongest wave so far. The UK has a consistently high number of cases, and Russia is seeing another sharp increase, but they had a consistently high number of cases before that.

The difference between the two countries is that there are far fewer deaths in the UK than in Russia, with about the same number of infections per day, which has to do with vaccination coverage rates (in Russia, only about 35% of the population is vaccinated).

Cases Going Down in the Americas

In Canada, the US, and Mexico, case numbers are going down sharply, Central America now also looks pretty quiet, and South America has very low case numbers with a few exceptions (Venezuela). There have been slight increases in Bolivia and Chile.

Quiet Situation in Asia, Africa & the Middle East

Asia looks very quiet, with a few exceptions. Many countries have very low or falling case numbers. Many cases are currently being reported in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and Singapore is struggling with an increase.

Australia seems to have peaked or is back in control of the outbreak that they had.

There is not much news from the Middle East and the Maghreb. For the most part, case numbers are low. Exceptions are Turkey (falling high) and Egypt (rising high).

In Africa, too, the situation is quiet, with low case numbers.

Vaccines for Children

So, now for the exciting updates.

The US FDA has given the green light to the Biontech-Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11. The vaccine used here is a different formulation than the adult vaccine. The RNA dose is one-third of the adult dose (10 ug instead of 30 ug) and the vaccine can be stored in the refrigerator (for 10 weeks).

Since this is all done very transparently in the US, you can download all the documents Pfizer submitted and also the FDA analysis from the Internet (in English, of course). The meeting of the VRBAC advisory board (which is public) can be watched on Youtube. However, it is more than 7 hours long.

The CDC advisory committee still has to make a recommendation, which will happen on November 2, but it is likely that this recommendation will be in line with the FDA’s decision. The FDA considers the vaccine safe and effective and recommends vaccination of 5-11-year-olds. I couldn’t agree more.

The European regulatory authority (the EMA) also has the Biontech-Pfizer data and will probably soon decide whether the vaccine will be approved for that age group in Europe.

Moderna, by the way, now has data in the same age group with a vaccine containing 50 ug of RNA instead of the 100 ug in the adult dose. However, to my knowledge, the data have not yet been submitted for approval.

Get Your Booster Shot!

Now a recommendation: Due to the high number of cases and the current situation in Austria, I recommend that all those who can receive a booster shot (elderly people, people with immune deficiencies, people who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca or J&J, hospital staff) to get it.

For more information on this, intervals, and at-risk groups, see Austria’s National Immunization Panel’s Application Recommendation.

[Editorial note: Today, Vienna opened registrations for booster shots for everyone aged 18 and older, 6 months after full immunization (i.e. getting the second shot). You can book your vaccination appointment here.]

Take care and stay healthy!

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 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.