The world is anxiously awaiting what autumn will bring in terms of the covid pandemic. Anyone who wants can go for the fourth booster dose of the vaccine. But some people are waiting for new preparations that will be more effective against new mutations. Is it worth it?
Special broadcast guest I’m asking from Karlín Barracks was the biochemist Jan Konvalinka together with the Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek (TOP 09) and the sociologist Daniel Prokop.
According to the Ministry of Health, the Czech Republic is unlikely to expect the introduction of masks, blanket tests and other restrictions in the near future. According to the Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek, the coronavirus has become a “medical problem” and according to him, we already have very effective vaccines and available medicines.
Biochemist Jan Konvalinka agrees with this: “According to the data available to me, 95% of our population has encountered the virus. We no longer have an immunologically naïve population like last year and the year before,” he said, adding that he would still remain cautious because a new mutation of the virus can always emerge that can bypass immunity.
According to the current minister, it was precisely because of the mutations that the department did not start with a more massive promotion of vaccination. He is said to be waiting for new, more effective vaccines, mainly against omicron. But Konvalinka would not wait for their launch on the European market.
“Miracles do happen, but I wouldn’t count on them just yet,” he explained. According to him, especially risk groups should not delay the fourth dose of the vaccine: “The younger and healthier you are, the relatively smaller benefit you get from the next dose.”
When to go for the next dose of the vaccine and will the new vaccines really bring more significant protection? And how effective are the drugs we currently have?
You can play the entire interview in an audio player, in your favorite podcast app or in a video.
What was said in the conversation?
1:00 – Is it true that the virus is so contagious that widespread testing is pointless, precautions are pointless and we have to rely on vaccinations and drugs? Now in the summer of 2022, I would say that what Mr. Válek says is already true. But it would be a mistake to approach it earlier, when some already considered the coronavirus as a purely medical problem, where there is no need for blanket measures. (…) According to the data available to me, 95% of our population has already encountered the virus. We no longer have an immunologically naive population like last year and the year before. Unless something dramatic happens, covid becomes a medical problem. But it’s still a pandemic. Therefore, I would argue against the smaller testing – we should have a better overview of how we are doing, we should test more. I would do some screening testing.
3:00 a.m – For example, a PCR study from wastewater was able to predict the summer wave. She was stronger, she was the most infected, yet the hospitals were not full. It wasn’t because omicron is a weaker infection, but because we’re so soaked and vaccinated that it doesn’t kill people anymore.
4:00 a.m. – From the literature it appears that antibodies last for months, but immune memory lasts longer. So you can get sick again, but it is unlikely that you will end up in the hospital or with a very severe course.
5:00 – Is it unlikely, then, that such a contagious variant would emerge that it would fill hospitals? It’s unlikely, but we can’t rule it out. I’m an optimist. Everything points to the fact that there is no big trouble waiting for us, but we still have to be prepared.
6:00 a.m – Vaccines are very suitable for risk groups. The benefit for younger people with three doses does not appear to be as great. The younger and healthier you are, the relatively smaller benefit you get from that extra dose. But this can be changed by a new variant of the virus, against which the current immune response would not be sufficient.
7:30 am – I wouldn’t wait for the new omicron vaccines, we don’t know how long it will take to get them on the market. Seeing how long it’s taking Paxlovid to get to us, the question is how quickly these vaccines will get to us, and we’re not sure if they’ll be clinically better than the current ones. These work very well as a protection against the heavy flow of the omicron.
8:00 a.m – These vaccines were tentatively approved in the United States in August. (The interview took place before the publication of the information that the use of these vaccines was also recommended by the European Medicines Agency, editor’s note.) Miracles do happen, but I wouldn’t count on them yet.
2:30 p.m – Medicines seem to have a bigger future than vaccines. Most of the mutations we see are on the coat spike protein, which means the drugs are effective against all variants. However, if they are overused, resistance to them may develop. But their combination can be used – for example with antibodies, and this will drive the virus into a dead end.
15:00 – Predicting the future is difficult. But I would be optimistic that the virus tried a lot and the best it came up with was omikron. It is dramatically more infectious but not more pathogenic. Except for the delta, however, the coronavirus did not come with mutations that would increase pathogenicity. We can wait, test and sequence.
17:00 – The government now sees covid as a medical problem, but that was wrong in 2020 and 2021. I hope they are right now and I think it will be. However, I would still prepare for the unlikely possibility that the virus mutates.
19:00 – There will definitely be a strong recommendation to get vaccinated every year – for at-risk and elderly citizens, similar to the flu. So far it doesn’t seem to be absolutely necessary for us young ones. (…) But I will not wait for the vaccination, I am not sure that the new vaccine will arrive in time.