Community protection: Why solidarity is of such importance during the coronavirus pandemic
Coronavirus vaccination does not protect only those who are vaccinated from severe COVID-19 infections. The more people are vaccinated, the better protected the people who cannot be vaccinated will be. Read more about the importance of herd immunity and how we can attain it here.
One for all and all for one – this principle of solidarity also plays a crucial role in battling the pandemic. The more people are protected from coronavirus infection and illness through vaccination, the more often the virus will come into contact with people who can no longer become infected – and the more difficult it becomes for it to spread. In such cases, one speaks of community protection or herd immunity.
Reaching this so-called herd immunity is important in order to be able to protect from severe COVID-19 infections also those people who cannot get vaccinated. These include children, who are too young for a coronavirus vaccination, people who cannot receive the vaccination for health-related reasons or who are allergic to specific vaccine ingredients.
Vaccination improves the likelihood of herd immunity
When community protection or herd immunity is attained depends on several factors, some of which are variable: A key figure in this calculation is the basic reproduction number. It shows how many other people a person who is infected would infect in a wholly unprotected population. Yet other factors such as population density, people’s behaviour when meeting with others, the emergence of virus variants, vaccination acceptance and vaccination progress also influence how quickly herd immunity is attained.
The vaccination rate has an impact on community protection
In order to protect as many people as fast as possible, more and more citizens in Germany are being vaccinated against coronavirus every day. To find out the latest numbers, please check the vaccination dashboard to see the current progress of Germany's vaccination campaign. Experts believe this has already prevented many severe disease progressions as well as deaths. Read more on efficacy in the product information available for each vaccine (Comirnaty® by BioNTech/Pfizer, Spikevax® by Moderna, Vaxzevria® by AstraZeneca and Janssen® by Johnson and Johnson). The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has published the results of mathematical model scenarios and population surveys aimed at determining the vaccination rate needed in Germany to successfully contain the coronavirus pandemic. These model scenarios simulate the impact of the vaccination rate on COVID-19 incidence and ICU-bed occupancy, and investigate the influence of various factors on the impact of the vaccination rate. The model shows that simply increasing the vaccination rate from 65 to 75 percent can have a significant impact on how future case numbers develop. See the Bulletin in PDF format here.
Although all COVID-19 vaccines authorised in Germany promise effective individual protection against illness, those who have been vaccinated should nonetheless remain vigilant, particularly on account of the virus variants that are currently spreading, since even people who have been vaccinated can contribute toward the transmission of the coronavirus.
People who have been vaccinated should also adhere to protective measures
Study data does indicate that people who have been vaccinated are highly likely not to become sick should they come into contact with the pathogen. However, it has not yet been conclusively confirmed whether and to what extent they can infect others. A vaccinated person could therefore also carry the virus without noticing or becoming ill themselves.
Based on current data, it is assumed that fully vaccinated people who are infected with the coronavirus have a low viral load, which would mean only be a small risk of transmission. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely excluded that other unvaccinated people can become infected. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) therefore recommends that people who have been vaccinated continue to follow the generally recommended infection control measures until further research data is available.
In everyday life, the following continues to apply: Show solidarity and follow distance and hygiene rules in order to protect yourself and others from infection, because the virus is transmitted via minuscule droplets (aerosols) that people release when breathing, speaking or sneezing.
DHM+A: These protective measures increase safety
Keep a distance
The likelihood of coming in contact with droplets from other, potentially infected people is particularly high within a vicinity of one to two metres. However, by maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres, you can minimise the risk of droplet infection.
Follow hygiene rules
Pathogens can also be transmitted via the hands. If you wash your hands regularly and carefully, you can effectively reduce the number of pathogens. When you cough or sneeze, a particularly high number of droplets are propelled through the air and other people can breathe these in. Should these droplets contain pathogens, there is a risk of infection. If you cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or into a paper handkerchief, you reduce the risk of infection.
Masks throughout the day
Just as important: wearing a protective mask. The mask retains some of the droplets, which means they cannot spread as easily as without protection. Here surgical masks and FFP2/FFP3 masks as well as KN95/N95 masks offer a particularly high level of protection.
In poorly aired rooms, aerosols can easily collect and spread across the entire area. The risk of droplet infection is therefore particularly high. Regular airing allows fresh air to circulate and dilutes the aerosols in the air, thereby also lowering the risk of infection.
Ensure you are fully vaccinated
Most of the vaccines authorised in Germany require two vaccine doses for comprehensive protection (except the vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, where one dose is sufficient). The interval recommended by the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) between the first and second vaccine dose varies according to the vaccine. More information on the recommended vaccine intervals is available in the information sheets on vaccination with mRNA vaccines and with vector vaccines. With vaccines, for which more than one dose is envisaged, the follow-up vaccine should not be skipped, since it is the second vaccine that ensures the effectiveness of the vaccination and helps to build up the best-possible protection against the virus. You are only considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final vaccine dose was administered. In addition, it is assumed that the protective effect is longer-lasting after two vaccine doses. Making an effort to protect others, also bearing in mind the dynamic development of infections due to virus variants (mutant strains), is important since: the fewer infections there are, the lower the chance that new dangerous mutant strains, against which the vaccines may not be able to protect as effectively, will develop.