Despite the summer, Covid does not let go, what should we expect for the future and what consequences for the school, but especially for our children? We talked about it with Professor Maria Rita Gismondo, Director of the Laboratory for Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Bio-Emergency Diagnostics at Sacco Hospital in Milan.
Professor Gismondo, we are in full fifth wave, can you tell us what is happening and what precautions we should take?
Let’s start with the precautions, nothing new but a lot of responsibility. No ban, no coercion, because I think we are all very tired, and at least there is no need for it. If restrictions are needed, we should certainly adapt. Right now, we must definitely protect the weak, because they are the ones who have always been most affected by the virus, and who are still the ones who can still have a serious form. By the way, I will not say anything to worry about. It is a circulation of a virus that causes a mild form of sore throat, no more than one or two days of a body temperature line. Now keeping the masks in a population where this virus is circulating massively is almost useless because we keep the mask, but then we take it off in the restaurant and there we might get the virus. I would only say to retain a great responsibility to the fragile. As for the current situation, what we expected to happen, we know that it is an RNA virus, which is a virus that mutates and therefore will never have, and I will never repeat, a definitive vaccine. In this connection, I give the example of the AIDS virus, we have been looking for a vaccine against HIV for thirty years, and every time we find one that is hypothetically possible, it happens that the virus has already changed during the experiments. So against RNA viruses, there are no vaccines to date that can help us. But what happens now: after rightly making three doses of the vaccine, thanks to the fact that we immediately blocked the severe form, necessary in a phase where the deaths were hundreds a day, the virus has fortunately mutated into a milder form. Now we are facing another wave and in my opinion there will be many others where the virus is circulating but it is also circulating because at this moment the virus is starting to feel the selective pressure. In the picture just drawn, it is wrong to continue vaccinating in this pandemic situation.
Professor Gismondo, I was fascinated by your example of the HIV virus, which we can define as a cousin of Covid-19 with similar properties. Based on decades of HIV research experience, you tell us that we must learn to live with these viruses. So can we believe that we can move from a pandemic phase to an endemic phase?
I think we already are. The definition of a pandemic is the presence in several countries of the world of a deadly and aggressive virus, today we do not have a real pandemic, we have a circulation of a virus that is endemic and which we must learn to live with. I do not think we can talk at the moment about the same emergency that we had in 2020.
Before, you told us that it is wrong to vaccinate right now, but still we hear constant appeals inviting citizens to take the fourth dose, including with vaccines that have been tested on a completely different type of virus than the one that is currently circulating and we are awaiting the arrival of the vaccines updated to the Omicron variant.
I say mass vaccination is wrong, we should vaccinate, even with multiple doses repeated over time, fragile patients who are still able to respond to the vaccine, because under the hat in which we close all fragile patients, there are also those who are immunosuppressed for div. reasons, for example for transplants or other therapies, that it is useless to continue vaccinating because the immune system does not respond and therefore it is a useless vaccination. I try to make my contribution to how I move forward based on my technical-scientific competencies, which can be found in clinical microbiology books, because let us not forget that clinical microbiology has not changed in relation to Covid, the exist and continue to have the same criteria, and therefore when we have a virus or a bacterium and we continue to bombard it repeatedly, it happens that a resistant form then develops, as has happened especially for bacteria with antibiotic resistance and we will face ever stronger and more and more forms aggressive. What happens instead with a virus capable of mutating produces the latter many mutations, but with our intervention we will block the most fragile mutations and select the most aggressive ones, if we continue like this, it is very likely that in the end a variant will be chosen again very aggressive. That said, if there are still restrictions or obligations for a civil duty, we will comply.
At the moment we also have other weapons besides vaccines, I am thinking of monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs, which are already used in fragile subjects and in those who, as mentioned before, do not develop antibodies and who can be considered as alternatives to vaccine. Is that right?
It’s definitely like that. Still, if we still take HIV as an example, we do not need to take a single molecule, a single vaccine and bomb with it. For HIV, we know that it has developed resistance to the first drugs that have been adapted, so the criterion to be adopted is to use a wide range of molecules, perhaps alternating, so that there is no clear selection of a virus . We now have paxlovid, which is an antiviral agent, we have monoclonal antibodies, and they are all very useful weapons, even if they are used a little. We need to have usage patterns that make us pick out the viral mass a bit, so first we will use an antiviral drug and we hope to have many others to exchange them because, as I have already said, the use of a single medicine will choose all variants that are resistant to that weapon.
Let us now also think of our children. We asked him to sacrifice vaccinations to protect grandparents and the most vulnerable people. At this point, I’m asking you if this vaccination was helpful or if we exaggerated.
My thoughts on this subject have always been the same. I would like to reiterate that my words must not be understood as a call for civil disobedience, we must abide by the provisions given in the law and this will not be discussed, or at least implemented and then discussed to eventually change them . That said, I think we will vaccinate our children with vaccines that do not eliminate the virus so much that we become infected again, which does not immunize us against the virus, but which thank God has served to lower the severity of the pathology it was an exaggeration and a waste to expose them to the risks of side effects to a vaccination which in my opinion was not useful. We protect the elderly and grandparents with the mask, only with it. Paradoxically, I can get twenty doses on me, but if I get infected or I am asymptomatic and I walk next to my fragile grandfather, I still cause him the disease.
She talked about masks. We have just finished a school year where our children, especially in the particularly hot month of May, suffered a lot. Many experts are against the use of the mask in school, not so much in terms of the health area of confinement of the virus, but for a talk about the mental health of our children. In recent years, we have deprived them of the basic relationships for issues of developmental age. What do you want for the next school year.
As for me, I would expect the kids to forget the mask they have to wear to school. We have had children who, instead of seeing their partner as the best friend that one can be with the hand on the shoulder because one feels supported in this way of life, have seen their companions turned into enemies with masks who cannot be there. to us because they can transmit the infection to us. I am not an educator or a psychologist, but I have observed my grandchildren and many children, and I can say that they have been severely damaged, so I say that one should definitely forget the masks for children in school. But where is the consistency then, the kids wore masks at school, and as soon as they came out they took off their masks and went out to play, so what are they for? Only to destroy them psychologically. In this regard, I was very impressed by a statement by Minister Bianchi in which he said that masks are used to bring up obedience, I think these are criteria for the Chinese regime, I hope our children are educated with persuasion and accountability. , certainly not because we put gag on them, we are not even talking about it.
An important aspect that you emphasized earlier is this discontinuous use of the mask, strong restrictions in the school environment, which, however, were not followed by the same measures in other areas. Such an alternating use of the mask actually abolishes its use, is that right?
Of course, it is useless. We are in full inconsistency. If we had been consistent, and never have been, in a ministerial decree passed, we would always have had to keep the mask on from dawn to sunset because the virus is everywhere. He is not in school and then he is not in the playgrounds, the virus is not in the cinema and then there is not on the plane, but what sense do these diversifications have then. The whole pandemic has had inconsistent measures, measures that should certainly have been adopted, but which have never existed with consequence and consequence.
Our immune system, like our whole body, needs to be trained. Getting in touch with the pathogens around us allows our immune system to always be alert and alert. Can excessive use of the mask also cause a weakening of our defenses?
This is one of the theories that was adopted for children who, after two years of absence of flu, syncytial virus, etc., then suddenly last winter had everything and more and therefore could be one of the reasons. Honestly, I do not have solid scientific data that can prove it, so these are hypotheses that must be respected, but which I do not want to support because I do not have solid data.
One last question before closing. Is it possible to assume a management of Covid similar to influenza, where we will have vaccination campaigns with updated vaccines every year?
I think that is desirable. Instead of going for four or five doses of vaccine developed with an old virus, it is better to make one a year but developed according to what is circulating, just as you do with the flu. We are vaccinated with the virus that is expected to create the peak of the epidemic. So I hope it is also because this is the correct use of vaccines which is an irreplaceable weapon.
And for the boys?
I believe that at present we must adopt the influenza vaccine scheme, where the vaccine is highly recommended for those over 65, and then others are free to do so at will. But I would not recommend it either, and it is also a financial detriment to health, moreover, to a vaccine that does not protect us from infection.
We can close by hoping for a new school year without a mask and with more relationships with our children.
Absolutely yes, regain the friendship, the cordiality, the common game that was stolen for two and a half years.