Expert seeks information on long-term consequences and prevention of Covid

Covid infection numbers are currently relatively low, according to wastewater data, but scientists want the government to be ready for a revival. Communication scientist Jakob-Moritz Eberl told APA that an information campaign should be prepared regarding possible long-term Covid damage and booster vaccines. Education about prevention is also necessary.

Eberl, who is co-manager of the Austrian Coronavirus Panel (ACPP) at the Vienna Center for Electoral Research (VieCER), called in the APA interview for such preparatory measures to be taken now – also in an active sense. health communication. Politicians should not wait for the number of infections to rise again. Because then those responsible may either react too late or not at all. As a political decision maker you always need to prepare for the “probably worse case scenario”. “The principle of hope should not lead to situations such as declaring the epidemic over or talking about a ‘summer like that time’,” Eberl said, touching on many misjudgments by politicians (e.g. waves of infection).

From Eberl’s perspective, it will be necessary for citizens to be informed in a timely manner about the usefulness of booster shots and their options for receiving them. Eberl does not want to leave as is the statements made by Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) at the end of last year that large vaccination campaigns “do not actually make a difference”: In fact, it is known from communication studies that information campaigns “are also very convincing (persuasive, note) The scientist working at the University of Vienna said, “Persuasion, that is, expecting to persuade people to a different position in the fourth year of the epidemic, is really difficult.”

These days, the challenge is no longer to convince vaccine skeptics, but to convince the vast majority of the population who support the majority of the measures. “And it’s about mobilization effects, so it’s about motivating people who are actually fundamentally receptive.” In this context, Eberl referred to a study he co-authored (published in the journal “Nature”) on “vaccine fatigue”: The point is that it is not certain that people who have been vaccinated more than once will continue to be vaccinated. booster shot unless specifically addressed. This also applies to risk groups. Eberl considers the very low vaccination rate of the current Covid vaccine to be “extremely problematic.”

If necessary – if the number of infections is higher – protective measures should also be taken, especially the wearing of FFP2 masks. As an example, Eberl cited the possibility of making relevant announcements on public transport. The role model effect of politics is also important: It is useless for the Minister of Health to publicly call on people to wear masks when visiting people at risk during periods when the risk of infection is high, while at the same time he is also taking “photographs”. extremely vulnerable people” (for example in hospitals) without masks (as will be the case before Christmas 2023). Recalling a speech by Chancellor Karl Nehammer to the press in December, he said: “It would also be good if politicians did not come to press conferences coughing; “This is about setting an example,” he said.

Politicians need to communicate now the need for structural measures such as installing ventilation systems or air purification devices. Communication scientist meduni joins research representatives’ calls for “fresh air”, as does Long Covid expert Kathryn Hoffmann from Vienna. This is about ensuring that “centers of the infection process” such as schools “have the infrastructure, as well as the knowledge and understanding of how to manage that infrastructure” (for example, teaching how to use CO2 meters to monitor air quality).

Eberl does not share the assumption made by Health Minister Rauch at the beginning of the year that the population will now have a high level of knowledge about Covid (e.g. booster vaccinations): “The so-called ‘health literacy’ rate is especially low in Turkey and Austria,” said the expert. “Here too, an important foundation can be laid with information campaigns and references to relevant contact points.” It has been repeatedly emphasized that the vaccine protects against serious diseases, but it is not possible for the protection provided by the vaccine to decrease over time. And: “The low-threshold vaccine offer, the be-all and end-all, is completely gone.”

It is also important that those responsible pay more attention to the choice and consequences of words expressed in public: trivializing terms such as “respiratory disease”, “immunization by infection”, “mild” or “end of pandemic” should be reflected. Eberl says these can (even if unintentionally) lead to false assumptions that the coronavirus or the danger it poses is now contained.

First of all, attention should be paid to the possible long-term damage of Covid infection: Long/Post-Covid and an information campaign about “the extent to which Covid is a multi-organ disease that also attacks the brain” This is of course something that can be actively addressed at the moment and everything else It can be an extremely important first step that can lay the foundation. In general, the public discourse shifted from the message ‘Measures saved lives’ to the message ‘Measures were stressful’. Eberl also sees a challenge for the media in this context: When terms like “respiratory disease” are used, it is important to take into account that Covid is not just a respiratory disease.

The expert also emphasized that the aforementioned steps, “whether investing in clean air or relying on health measures” will not only limit the positive effects of Covid. On the contrary, such investments will generally improve the health of the population, save costs in the healthcare system and reduce sickness absences. “Investments are needed to better prepare us for the next wave of Covid. These investments are completely independent of the next wave of Covid, but are long-term investments in the health of everyone.”

For example, mentioning that measles cases are increasing in Austria and the vaccination rate is low, especially among young children, Eberl said, “Destructive health communication in recent years also contributes to the decrease in confidence in other preventive measures and other vaccines.” “The playing field has been left to the anti-vaxxers, especially on social media, not just on Covid but also on flu and measles.” “Active health communication” should “meet people where they are.” And this also applies to social media. “It’s actually very strange” that nothing has been learned here in the last few years.

(APA)

Source: Vienna

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