Return to normality could take up to two years, German virologists warn

Return to normality could take up to two years, German virologists warn
Photo: DPA
Experts from Germany’s vaccine authority have cautioned that the availability of a vaccine against Covid-19 will only mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

Virologists on the “Stiko”, the federal authority responsible for recommending a vaccine, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine am Sonntag (FAS) that the process of vaccinating enough people so that a form of “herd immunity” is achieved could take months or even years.

Martin Terhardt, a Berlin paediatrician who sits on the Stiko, told the paper that it would take between 18 months and two years for life to return to normal.

READ ALSO: Germany eyes voluntary coronavirus vaccine by mid-2021

Terhardt estimated that it could take 8 months to vaccinate enough people so that other measures against the disease, such as face masks and social distancing, become redundant.

The Stiko has previously raised optimism about an end to the pandemic by saying that it believes a vaccine could be ready by early next year.

But various members of the commission emphasized to FAS that the availability of a vaccine would just be the beginning.

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Klaus Überla, a Nuremberg virologist, said that initially there would only be enough vaccines ready to immunize a couple of million people.

Tough decisions will then have to be made on who gets the vaccine first. Giving it to younger people, who are more sociable and thus spread the virus faster, could slow down its progress. Giving it to older people would protect those more likely to have serious symptoms.

Even then, the initial doses will not be sufficient for either the purpose of creating herd immunity or to protect all vulnerable people, Stiko members cautioned.

When more doses become available, building the capacity to vaccinate large numbers of people will prove challenging, the experts say.

“As an example: 100,000 vaccinations every day for 150 days would cover 15 million people. That is quite a challenge,” said commission head Thomas Mertens.

A vaccine centre in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: DPA

The experts say that 60 percent of the population – 49 million people – will have to be vaccinated before herd immunity would become effective.

Resistance against coronavirus rules

In Germany, an undercurrent of resistance against the pandemic rules has emerged in recent months, as people begin to chafe at the ongoing restrictions on many aspects of their daily lives.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Police in Berlin halt anti-corona protest

Thousands of people protested at Lake Constance in southern Germany over the weekend, demanding an immediate end to the restrictions.

At the same time, the number of known cases has risen slightly in recent weeks. Close to 14,000 new cases have been confirmed over the past seven days, an increase of 500 from the previous week.

Only 10 of Germany’s 412 districts have not had new cases over the past seven days.

In the last 24 hours, 12 more people have died with the virus and some 2,600 new cases have been confirmed.


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