If all goes well, we will have an autumn without corona measures

If all goes well, we will have an autumn without corona measures
If all goes well, we will have an autumn without corona measures

First the bad news: in October and November we can expect another corona wave. Every day thousands of people will again develop corona symptoms: loss of taste, cough, sore throat, headache and fatigue. That means: absenteeism at work and extra pressure at the general practitioners.

But the good news is that this wave will remain manageable in all scenarios simulated by UAntwerp and UHasselt if no new worrying variant emerges. Even in the most unfavorable scenario, the pressure on hospitals remains limited – even if we do not take corona measures. In other words: as it looks now, renewed strict corona measures are not necessary to avoid hospitals having to postpone care again due to a surplus of corona patients.

Emphasis on over-50s

Also good news is that the fourth injections this autumn will help to limit hospital admissions. In particular, the injections in the over-65s, the injections in 18 to 50-year-olds hardly influence the number of hospital admissions. Their chance of hospitalization is much smaller, and their fourth shot is not given until the wave is already in full swing. “In the vaccination campaign, the focus should be on the over-50s and those with underlying disorders,” says professor of biostatistics Niel Hens (UHasselt, UAntwerp). Professor of vaccinology Pierre Van Damme (UAntwerp) also emphasizes this. “I take it from the calculations that all over-50s should be vaccinated again, not just the most vulnerable.”

A fourth shot also makes sense for younger people. “I get my flu shot every year,” Hens says. “For me it is a no-brainer to do the same for corona.” An extra shot reduces the chance of contracting Covid-19, although the researchers assume that this protection decreases sharply over time.

Not everyone is ready for another shot. But even if only half of the over-65s who have already received a third shot also have a fourth, there is already a strong reduction in the number of hospital admissions. Without an autumn booster, about 450 patients would end up in hospital due to corona at the peak of the autumn wave, they calculate. If half of the boosted over-65s get another shot, that drops to 200. By comparison: at the peak of the omikron wave in January, there were more than 400 Covid admissions per day. Over 200 at the peak of the summer wave in July.

The fact that we are getting a wave is partly because we have more social contacts in the autumn than in the summer. In their simulations, the researchers assume that we will again make as many contacts as in June. Despite this, the pressure on hospitals and ICU units remains limited.

Are we going to a winter without corona measures? “If we can keep it under control with this vaccination campaign, I don’t see why we should take bold measures,” says Hens. Perhaps it would be good to consider wearing mouth masks again where vulnerable or large groups of people come together.”

However, that does not mean that autumn will be carefree. “There will still be pressure on the health system, on the general practitioners or due to the loss of healthcare staff. We also expect other respiratory diseases, such as RSV and the flu. We saw a strong flu wave in Australia this summer,” says Hens.

And yes, the important disclaimer remains: a new variant can throw a spanner in the works. This is not taken into account in the simulations. Niel Hens: “It can go in any direction. But we think that new variants have less and less impact. A new variant should already be punished, especially because our immunity is becoming broader and wider. We are moving more and more towards an endemic equilibrium, where the waves are getting smaller and smaller. Although it is too early to speak of an equilibrium situation.”

Already 417,112 people want autumn booster

Of the 798,968 people who were already invited for an autumn booster against covid, 52.2 percent already accepted the proposal. “A positive result, since we started inviting about two weeks ago,” said the cabinet of Flemish Minister of Welfare Hilde Crevits (CD&V). ‘Certainly also because we started inviting the most vulnerable.’ The percentage can still rise, emphasizes the Agency for Care and Health (AZG), for example because the invitation is still in the post. The number of refusals was not yet known.

It also turned out on Thursday that everyone will receive the booster adapted to omikron, which has been approved in Europe. On September 12, the start day of the vaccination campaign, Flanders will have 1.3 million adapted vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer in stock. The following week, another 1.4 million vaccines followed. (cm)

Tags: autumn corona measures

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