Dr. János Szlávik, Chief Infectologist of the South Pest Center Hospital, spoke to Mandiner about Covid-19, while Dr. Ferenc Jakab, Professor of Virology, Deputy Rector of the University of Pécs, Head of the National Virological Laboratory, gave an interview to 24.hu about the virus. There was talk of vaccination, masks, new variants, and rising infection rates.
The BA.5 variant
Across Europe, the number of infected and hospitalized patients is on the rise, and the number of children with covid is also increasing. The BA.4 and BA.5 variants are now dominant in 18 European countries, rapidly replacing earlier variants, Mandiner reports. This is something we have also reported recently.
Ferenc Jakab told 24.hu:
There is no need to talk about waves anymore. The virus is not going away, it is with us all the time, it is here to stay, and seasonally it causes epidemics of small and large proportions. That could be the case now.”
Each country is different, as some countries are at the peak of the epidemic, in others, the number of cases is still rising, and in others, there is no sign of a growing trend, János Szlávik said. The doctor said that although the variation in case numbers depends more on which strain of the virus is predominant in a given country, it is not even possible to make predictions based on this. In any case, the BA.4 and BA.5 variants are taking the lead in most places.
I could say that BA.5 causes mild symptoms, but if a lot of people have taken the vaccine, it causes mild symptoms not only because BA.5 is milder, but also because a lot of people are vaccinated,”
As for the symptoms of the new and older variants, there is not much difference, with BA.5 and BA.4 usually causing illness for two to three days, with high fever, headache, cough, and the taste and smell disturbances already seen in the older variants.
The whole thing lasts two to three days, up to seven days, after which the vast majority of patients are healed, so it is not too bad in that respect,”
he said. However, experience has shown that “this variant can infect more children,” the expert pointed out.
Szlávik said that due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus, it is becoming more and more certain that children will need to be vaccinated, and for now Szlávik said that two doses are enough.
And for adults, he said, three doses are enough to avoid the tragic outcome of the virus and hospitalization. A fourth dose can increase immunity to infection. In any case, all adults in Hungary who have had their previous vaccination more than four months ago can receive it. Experts recommend this dose mainly for older, chronic patients. The new variants, however, appear to be more resistant to the vaccine than the previous ones.
Yet Jakab does not support booster vaccines every 3-4 months. According to him, this made sense when a bursting, acute wave needed to be suppressed and contained at all costs, and this was achieved in 2020 and 2021. After the second dose, the thirrd one increases our immunity but there is no evidence that the fourth dose, taken in quick succession, i.e. within three to four months, is equally useful, and especially not whether it is worth continuing with a fifth, or even sixth, etc. vaccine.
In general, an annual booster vaccination before the autumn-winter season is definitely justified, but regular quarterly or semi-annual vaccination is not,”
Ferenc Jakab also elaborated on what he currently thinks about vaccination:
- Everyone should take a third dose, it is essential, and it greatly reduces the chance of severe disease.
- Those who received a third vaccination at the beginning of the year should take a fourth now, before the autumn-winter season. This is the equivalent of one booster vaccination a year.
- Older people, those with acute illnesses, or who are at risk at work should also get a fourth vaccination.
- And again, standing in line for vaccinations every three to four months is unnecessary.
Vaccines that are equally effective against all variants of the virus are being developed in several parts of the world. It is not known, however, when they will be available.
Szlávik said that if someone is afraid of the disease, you are right to wear a mask, and more and more people are doing so. However, he believes that the mandatory use of masks or any other restrictive measures should not be introduced at this stage.
As he said, those countries where the summer wave has subsided have escaped without restrictions. “I really hope it will be the same here.” He added that “the number of people in hospital is going up a little, but soon it will start to fall off.”
Sources: 24.hu, Mandiner
Featured image: illustration via Attila Kovács/MTI