I have Covid-19. I am in good company: yesterday, thousands of new cases were reported in Berlin. We are in the middle of the Fourth Wave. The city’s seven-day average for new cases per 100,000 residents has reached 230.2 — an all-time high.
I was not expecting to get sick. I had a first dose of AstraZeneca in May, and a second dose of Biontech-Pfizer in July. The only gatherings I attended followed the 2G rule — meaning everyone was vaccinated or recovered (or both).
Looking at the calendar, it seems likely that I got the virus at a recent Film Festival. Everyone had to show both a vaccine passport and a photo ID to enter the cinema. Clearly, this was not enough to prevent infections.
My first symptoms appeared about ten days ago. I thought I had a cold, but negative results from a Schnelltest (antigen test) made me feel safe. Five days later, I took another Schnelltest and that second band turned dark red immediately. A PCR test the next day confirmed my fears.
As we learned this summer, vaccinated people can still transmit Covid. That shock led to headlines about vaccinated people spreading the virus “just as easily” as the unvaccinated. Sahra Wagenknecht, the controversial Linke politician, used that argument on a talk show to explain why she had not gotten jabbed. But let’s be clear:
Do vaccines help stop the spread of the virus?
The short answer: Yes.
The medium answer: Vaccines help a lot, even if they do not prevent transmission entirely.
The long answer: It is extremely complicated and we need more data.
Writing in The Atlantic, Yasmin Tayag has offered an overview of the science. The main takeaway: Vaccinated people are far less likely to get infected, and therefore far less likely to spread the virus. Even if they do get sick, the illness is shorter and less severe.
Two days before I first developed symptoms, I was at another 2G gathering. That could have been a superspreader event — but not a single person got sick. Family members I saw over the week have all tested negative as well. Even my partner has stayed healthy, despite breathing the same air at night. I have to believe my vaccination is to thank for this.
Since last year, Covid has been allowed to spread around the globe and develop ever-more dangerous mutations, including the Delta variant. Germany’s vaccine rate is only 67%. That might be somewhat ahead of the United States, but is still behind almost 50 other countries, according to numbers from the New York Times. There is broad consensus that more people need to be vaccinated. But have you seen massive publicity campaigns in favor of vaccination? Where are the teams offering Impfungen in supermarkets?
Vaccines are needed all over the world. German and U.S. companies got billions of dollars to develop this near-miraculous new technology. But, although the financing was public, the profits are private. Biontech, Pfizer, and Moderna are raking in billions of dollars. In order to protect these illegitimate profits, they are actively preventing vaccines from reaching poorer countries — thus ensuring that Covid can rampage and mutate further. It would be much easier to trust vaccines made by public institutions under democratic control.
Vaccines were never going to be enough to eradicate the pandemic. At the beginning of this year, experts were explaining the need to suppress the virus with real lockdowns. But the German government’s policy was always focussed on the need to keep the profit-making machine running and only prevent a collapse of the healthcare system.
Today we need massive testing, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. I was shocked how difficult it was to get a PCR test in Berlin — 18 months after the beginning of the pandemic. Even with symptoms and a positive Schnelltest, I had to wait a day and then stand outside in the cold for two hours.
To make real inroads against Covid, we need to make inroads against the fortunes of the pandemic profiteers. But I wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting for the German government to value public health above billionaires’ profits.
Without a radical change in policy, Covid is going to be with us for a long time.