»All of a sudden, COVID was by far the most frequent diagnosis and death was omnipresent.«

Prof. Dr. Michael Bauer, Director of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine at the Jena University Hospital.

Did you get vaccinated? And if yes: for what reason?

Yes, if I am to be completely honest, out of fear of what I see every day in the intensive care unit with COVID. An insidious and threatening clinical picture, often with long-term consequences!

You had to sound the alarm several times last year. Why?

In total, more than 370 COVID patients – of whom almost 40 percent died – were treated in the intensive care unit. We had up to 35 patients with a completely new clinical picture at the same time. All of a sudden, COVID was by far the most frequent diagnosis and death was omnipresent.

With so many COVID patients, can you still treat ICU patients with other diseases as well as before the pandemic?

No, we had to postpone care for many diagnoses that could be planned, including serious ones such as tumours, because planned post-operative treatment in the intensive care unit was not possible. The detailed analysis of the "collateral damage" is still pending. What is already certain is that patients were also harmed by the overtaxing of the health care system without themselves being ill with COVID.

You have had many COVID patients in intensive care. Do you now have a better understanding of why some are more severely affected than others?

By now we know many risk factors – first and foremost age. For others, e.g. genetic risks, we have only scratched the surface.

Does youth protect against a severe course?

Mostly yes, but we also had young patients in the middle of life, for example, two pregnant patients who were on the brink for weeks.

What do you tell students who are still hesitant to get vaccinated?

Apart from the residual risk of falling seriously ill, it is above all a question of social solidarity as to when we can return to a normal life with the new virus. In addition, the immense costs, which are increasing with every day of the pandemic, are a mortgage for the students now.

Are there really good reasons NOT to get vaccinated?

Practically none – in case of doubt, you can always talk to the doctor in charge. The real blessing of the pandemic was the great experience we gained with RNA vaccines. These will revolutionise medicine. Students must be the pioneers against the "post-factual" stultification of society, which manifests itself precisely among vaccination sceptics and the so-called "Querdenker"!

What do you expect for autumn/winter?

With more than 20 to 30 percent of fellow citizens not vaccinated and a highly contagious virus variant, I expect a renewed wave of critically ill people as well.

When will Corona only be a topic for specialists?

It is likely that the virus will remain endemic. It is difficult to say on what scale – the option of making it a specialist issue through widespread vaccination is a unique opportunity that we owe to research in this field.


The interview was held on 16 August 2021.