Prof. Dr. Andreas Stallmach is Director of the Clinic for Internal Medicine IV at the University Hospital Jena (UKJ).
Did you get vaccinated? And if yes: for what reason?
Yes, I have been vaccinated twice. I have seen too many patients die from COVID-19 and as a person at increased risk - older than 60 and male - I did not hesitate at all to accept the vaccination offer from our company doctor.
What do you tell students who are still hesitant to get vaccinated?
I first ask for the reasons and then try to address them in conversation. For example, some people are afraid of side effects. These fears are of course to be taken seriously; but the risk of developing thrombosis, for example, is statistically smaller than the probability of being struck by lightning. The vaccines available in Germany are the best-monitored vaccines in the history of medicine. Never before have so many people been vaccinated in controlled trials in such a short time. The fact that these vaccinations are monitored worldwide would also have revealed side effects that are extremely rare.
Are there really good reasons NOT to get vaccinated?
Severe acute diseases, especially those requiring treatment, are a contraindication to vaccination. Allergies to components of the vaccine can also be obstacles to vaccination.
With millions now recovered: What new insights into post-COVID syndrome can be drawn from the data and current studies?
Post-COVID syndrome means complaints over twelve weeks after the acute infection. The most common symptoms are fatigue (i.e. a chronic tiredness syndrome), depressive moods, shortness of breath and a cough. Currently, we estimate that about 10 to 15 percent of patients with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection develop post-COVID syndrome. Unfortunately, this can last for months in some patients.
Does youth protect against developing post-COVID syndrome?
No! Unfortunately not. Among others, I look after a young man, 28 years old, who had a mild COVID-19 disease more than twelve months ago and still suffers from severe fatigue. It is so severe that he is unable to work and has not yet been able to resume his studies.
Do the vaccines used in Germany help against post-COVID syndrome in the event of a breakthrough infection?
The data situation here is not uniform. There are indications that early vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 alleviates the post-COVID syndrome, but the quality of the studies is poor, so I cannot give a well-founded recommendation at the moment. Regardless of this, all people who have experienced COVID-19 should get vaccinated once about six months after infection.
What do you expect for autumn/winter?
The rise of the fourth wave is coming faster and starting earlier than last year. If 30 percent of people are not vaccinated, a high number of patients can be expected again, which will change the procedures, for example, at Jena University Hospital (UKJ). There will be so-called "breakthrough infections", i.e. people who fall ill with COVID-19 despite vaccination, but who are highly unlikely to become seriously or severely ill so that they do not require inpatient treatment, especially intensive medical care.
We will also recommend the third vaccination in autumn, at least for subgroups, e.g. very old people or people with severe chronic diseases.
When will Corona only be a topic for specialists?
Corona will be with us all for a very long time, but hopefully it will soon no longer rule our lives. Vaccination helps with that!
The interview was held on 13 August 2021.