Claim: "The best protection against a Corona infection is still a good immune system."Prof. Dr. Carsten Watzl, immunologist, scientific director at the Leibniz Institute of the Technical University of Dortmund and secretary general of the German Society for Immunology:
I actually still hear this argument relatively often. It is unfortunate, however, that we know there is no known existing immunity to the novel virus unless one has already been infected with Covid-19 or received the Corona vaccine. And thus no antibodies matching the virus that one might already have.
The situation is a little different with the so-called T cells, where one or the other "cross-reaction" with Sars-CoV-2 has been observed. The cells apparently originated against another corona virus and now become active against COVID-19. However, it is debatable whether this is really beneficial or perhaps even more harmful. Thus, an optimal immune response could also be slowed or even hindered under these circumstances.
In general, everyone is immunologically different. This is a good thing, by the way, because there is no single pathogen that can trick everyone's immune system. That a strong immune system is usually more conducive to a good defense is true. However, researchers have been able to show how Sars-CoV-2 uses a mechanism of the immune system that is supposed to be defensive and turns it into its opposite. Simplified: What is supposed to function as a defense mechanism, enables the virus to multiply in the first place. Fact is: Even young people with a completely intact immune system can get severely ill with COVID-19. And of the more than four million Germans who have been infected with the virus in the meantime, surely not all of them had a weak immune system. You can spin it any way you want: the best way to get your immune system ready against the Corona virus is to get vaccinated.
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2. Claim: "Even vaccinated people can become infected"
Prof. Dr. Carsten Watzl:
That is correct and I like to explain this with a picture: Through the vaccination I get an umbrella. The size of this shield depends, among other things, on our age and possible previous illnesses. We also know that the protective effect is not equally good with all vaccines.
Now when it rains and I open an umbrella, I usually don't get wet. At least not when the rain is not so strong. But the delta variant now has a stronger effect than the wild type of the Corona virus: the rain is heavier and may also come from the side at times. The umbrella still offers protection now, but the chance of getting wet is increasing. Also, with time, the vaccine protection decreases somewhat. The umbrella gets a little smaller. Thus, vaccination currently still protects with a good 75 percent effectiveness against symptomatic disease. But the protection against a serious disease is much better and is about 90 percent.
But there are also people who have been vaccinated twice and have no umbrella at all. However, this is very rare. This can happen with certain immune deficiencies. If these people then fall ill with corona, it is actually wrong to say that the infection came despite immunity. Because in fact these people were vaccinated, but not immune.
3. Claim: "The many vaccine breakthroughs show that vaccination does not work."
Prof. Dr. Carsten Watzl:
No, they do not show that. They only confirm what has been known for a long time, namely that the vaccination is not 100 percent effective. Participants in the vaccine group had already been infected in the pivotal trials. If the vaccine from BioNTech is certified as having an efficacy of 95 percent, then that is precisely what it has to do with. The background is as follows: To be completely protected in the event of a respiratory infection, I need a lot of antibodies directly on the mucous membranes. This is how the organism manages to fight the virus directly at the point of entry. But the amount of antibodies decreases with time. So after a certain time, people may not be able to fight off the infection directly. And yet, because of the memory cells that have formed in the meantime, you are still protected against a serious illness.
Overall, non-vaccinated people are six to ten times more likely to become infected than vaccinated people. More than 90 percent of patients hospitalized with a severe course of COVID are unvaccinated. Since there are meanwhile many more vaccinated than unvaccinated persons in Germany, it can be stated: A minority causes the vast majority of severe COVID-19 courses.
4. Claim: "There are no long-term studies on the side effects of vaccination"
Prof. Dr. Carsten Watzl:
At this point, I think it's important to get basic first. What does the vaccination actually do? It triggers an immune reaction. The body is faked an infection, the infection subsides – what remains are the memory cells.
If side effects do occur, they typically begin within a maximum of eight weeks after vaccination. That is, in the phase when the infection is subsiding. After that the vaccine is degraded. Can also do nothing more in the body with it. With a drug that you take every day, it's different. This is where you build up a drug level, a certain threshold has to be exceeded for this to happen. Even after the drug is discontinued, the active ingredient can remain in the body for a period of time, causing side effects.
The mechanism of a vaccination has nothing to do with the buildup of such a threshold. After all, a vaccination is not given regularly, but once.
One problem is that after vaccination sometimes side effects occur that are so rare that it takes quite a while before they become noticeable. For example, sinus vein thrombosis occurs in one to two out of 100.000 against Sars-CoV-2 vaccinated before. Because it takes time to causally link such rare events to a vaccination, we talk about long-term effects. Long-term consequence does not mean that a side effect triggered by a vaccination only appears after a long time. I think this is very often misunderstood.
Let us consider: In Germany alone, about 100 million doses of various Corona vaccines have been vaccinated so far. Worldwide, there were 6 billion doses. There has never been a vaccine that has been vaccinated so frequently in such a short period of time. This has the advantage that we can see even the rarest side effects. Quite clearly, the Corona vaccines are not free of side effects. In Germany, the safety of vaccines is monitored by the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut. I keep looking at the numbers and see that nothing really new has been added in the past few months. As of last count, the Paul Ehrlich Institute reports a total of about 156.000 suspected adverse events reported from Germany in about 102 million vaccinations. That may sound like a lot, but over 90 percent of these reports are for the vaccine reaction, which is the flu-like symptoms one to two days after vaccination.
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5. Claim: "Vaccinations promote allergies"
Prof. Dr. Carsten Watzl:
An allergic reaction to vaccination does not occur within days, weeks or months, but usually within a short time after vaccination. It is not so much about allergies to the active substance itself, but to one of the other components of the injected agent. These accompanying substances help to transport the vaccine to where it can exert its effect. mRNA vaccines contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), a substance also found in many cosmetic products. In fact, there are people who are allergic to this substance and who belong to the very small group of people who cannot be vaccinated against the corona virus, or can only be vaccinated under strict precautions.
If people with autoimmune diseases are hesitant about getting vaccinated against Sars-CoV-2, I can understand that. Your immune system is overactive and that a vaccination, which stimulates the immune system, promotes certain autoimmune processes, cannot be excluded, even if such a thing occurs very rarely. In this case, the advantages of the vaccination and the feared side effects must be weighed particularly thoroughly against a possible infection, which, by the way, can also be a trigger for autoimmune diseases.
However, an allergy is not a matter of triggering complex processes that may not even take effect until much later. Rather, the organism reacts promptly. Very specific to a particular allergen. Therefore, I do not understand the concerns at this point.
If you are known to be allergic to one of the vaccine's ingredients, the Paul Ehrlich Institute recommends switching to another vaccine. As a general rule, in order to be well cared for in the event of a very rare allergic reaction to the Corona vaccine, all vaccinated individuals remain under supervision for a while after administration of the shot. In the case of a very severe reaction, it is necessary to – and can! – countermeasures are taken within a very short time.
6. Claim: "The vaccination changes the genetic makeup"
Prof. Dr. Carsten Watzl:
The new thing about mRNA vaccines is that the body receives a blueprint through an externally added mRNA molecule. This causes our body's cells to produce a single protein of the coronavirus: the spike protein. The whole thing happens while our organism is busy with tens of thousands of its own mRNA molecules that are permanently active in our cells.
That the mRNA of the vaccine of all things should be able to penetrate the cell nucleus and change genetic information, while tens of thousands of other mRNAs do not do this, I think is impossible. Or, to put it another way: from a scientific point of view, there is no reason to ame such a thing.
7. Claim: "With vaccinations, the pharmaceutical industry only wants to make business, doctors earn a golden nose"
Pia Lamberty, social psychologist and managing director at the Center for Monitoring, Analysis and Strategy (CeMAS) in Berlin:
There are a number of other arguments along similar lines: Science is only bought. Or: The ones up there just wanted to steer us, with a secret plan. One possibility is to react in such a case with counter-questions and not to get involved in the argumentation at all: Who are actually those up there? Or also: Who are the pharmaceutical companies? The typical "conspiracy whispering", with which we are confronted at present, is often little thought through to the end.
Therefore, it can help to encourage the other person to think further: If there were really a conspiracy behind the vaccination, it would have to be an extremely large-scale plan that is being pursued. Not only governments would have to be involved, but also scientists, doctors and other experts. And not only here in Germany, but worldwide, since all countries are affected by this pandemic at the same time. Means: There would be quite a few involved, just to make a few companies richer. The plan would have to work perfectly for it to work. No one is allowed to blab, nothing is allowed to leak out. And something like this should be realistic?
In fact, a mathematician once calculated how long it would take for such a conspiracy to come to light. The result: the more people involved, the faster it goes. Anyone who imagines that he would sneak into the family circle something that the others must not know at all, can understand this. The more people know about a secret, the more likely it is to be discovered.
8. Statement: "The demanded solidarity – the protection of the others by the own vaccination – is an advanced reason. With it one wants to make us a bad conscience"
The pandemic has shown how closely the well-being of the individual is linked to the well-being of all. It is not only the young mother with cancer or the man with the heart attack who benefits when sufficient intensive care beds are available. Those who protect others also protect themselves in the long term.
9. Claim: "Science doesn't know everything either"
When I hear something like that, I report from my work. I say: When I work on an article, it often takes a long time to be finished. Scientific papers only have the seal of approval of the scientific community when they have been critically reviewed by colleagues. There are even defined procedures for this. Often I have to revise my article after that. However, I do not find the comments of the colleagues to be a problem. On the contrary, open exchange is something completely normal for scientists. Questioning oneself is the basis of scientific work. Let's not forget: a year and a half ago we were suddenly confronted with a completely new type of virus. In the meantime we know the virus much better. In some, research has corrected. But then how do I know that what the scientists are saying is now correct? Those who equate science with truth might ask like this. Science, however, is rather the mapping of accumulated knowledge at a given time. Corona virus is now not so new to us. We know it can make you sick and cause severe disease progression. And we know that vaccinations work. There is evidence. They show up again and again, individual parts of an overall picture, so to speak. And that's one difference from cherry-picking. As the saying goes? You can't build a house on shaky ground.