„All unvaccinated people infected in a very short time“

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Karl Lauterbach has been a permanent guest on the talk show since the beginning of the pandemic, and now he is the Minister of Health at Maybritt Illner for the first time. How does he want to slow down Omikron? Sure, especially with vaccinations. An inventory should clarify how long the vaccine will last for the next year. He also wants to accelerate the work of the STIKO.

Germany has a new health minister. And he has to hurry. The delta variant of the corona virus has not yet been defeated, a new pathogen with Omikron is just around the corner. It is much more contagious than the previous variant. How things could go on now, Maybrit Illner wants to discuss with her guests on ZDF. Among them: The new Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach, who had also spoken to RTL Direkt that evening.

Lauterbach takes an inventory.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is pictured before the start of the new government’s first cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany December 8, 2021. Ina Fassbender/Pool via REUTERS

The most important thing for the minister at the moment: „We have to advance the booster vaccinations so strongly that we have protected a large part of the population before the Omikron variant comes. I believe that we can do it.“ You are only well protected against them with three vaccinations – probably, according to Lauterbach.

The other guests seem to have a lot of confidence in Lauterbach. In any case, they are full of praise for the new minister. The Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans, for example. And he promises: „I won’t pick on him if I ever make a mistake. The situation is too serious for that.“

At the moment, action is actually the name of the game at Lauterbach. He had already started working in the ministry, he said he wasn’t even a minister at that time. That’s why he knows: „There will be enough vaccine by the end of the year.“ He wants to find out what it looks like next year during an inventory this Friday. In any case, he will hold bilateral talks to prevent vaccine shortages.

This is also absolutely important for physicist Viola Priesemann, because the new Omikron variant is spreading very quickly. The number of infected doubles within three to four days. „If this wave rises so quickly, many people will soon be standing in front of the hospital doors at the same time,“ she predicts and demands: „We should prepare ourselves for all scenarios.“

The Prime Minister’s Conference on Thursday also agreed on this, explains Tobias Hans. Looking back, he admits self-critically: „We have lost time without question“, only to pat himself a little on the back later: In Saarland, people started booster vaccinations in retirement homes as early as October. Now his state is at the top of the Germany-wide vaccination rate. Considerable progress has been made. „And that was also due to the people who had themselves vaccinated; you have to say“ thank you „for that,“ said the CDU politician.

„Unvaccinated people are hit hard“

Then Karl Lauterbach explains the effectiveness of the vaccines against the new Omikron variant. And it doesn’t look good. The booster vaccination may only work 20 to 23 percent, he says. Those who did not have the third vaccination might not get seriously ill, but could infect other people. „The infections then run through to the unvaccinated. They will then become seriously ill in a very short time.“
STIKO should get more staff

A new vaccine could be available in three months if approved, Lauterbach said. In response to the fact that the Standing Vaccination Commission always needs a certain amount of time to make a decision, he counters: „The STIKO only makes recommendations.“ There is still the European health authority EMA, adds Hans. You shouldn’t put any political pressure on the STIKO, says Lauterbach, but: „Now we’re in a gallop!“ The minister had previously announced on RTL Direkt: „I will make sure that the STIKO is better equipped.“ STIKO currently has too few employees. With more staff, she can also make faster decisions.
„Facility-related compulsory vaccination is coming“

Today, Friday, the Bundestag is about the introduction of a facility-related vaccination requirement. It’s coming, Tobias Hans and Karl Lauterbach agree. „I think that’s absolutely right,“ says Lauterbach. „We are responsible for everyone who cannot protect themselves.“

That is not enough for Priesemann. She asks to think about worst-case scenarios and to prepare for further virus variants. You could also envision short but tough lockdowns. „Being quick and tough can save a lot of trouble,“ she says.

Lauterbach doesn’t like to comment on that. But at the end of the program he sums up his wishes for the next few months in a few words: „Down the delta wave, avoid the omicron wave if possible, do not allow other waves to appear in the first place.“

That is why the general vaccination requirement will come, Lauterbach is certain. And: „It will bring conflicts. We have to face them.“

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