Chair of Catalonia's Covid Scientific Advisory Committee calls office Christmas parties 'risky'

Vaccine skeptics should "not fear side effects, but rather getting Covid," says Dr. Magda Campins

Dr. Magda Campins, who carried out contact tracing of HIV/AIDS patients at Vall d'Hebron in the 80s (by Laura Fíguls)
Dr. Magda Campins, who carried out contact tracing of HIV/AIDS patients at Vall d'Hebron in the 80s (by Laura Fíguls) / ACN

Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

December 4, 2021 12:31 PM

Catalonia, like other parts of Europe, has seen a dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks. PCR and antigen test positives have averaged at just below 1,900 per day between November 18 and December 2 – almost 1,000 more daily cases than the two weeks before that.

Covid-related hospitalizations and patients in ICUs, meanwhile, have soared by 120% and 111%, respectively, over the last four weeks. And while deaths have not gone up as dramatically – largely due to the success of the vaccination campaign – they do tend to lag a few weeks behind.

This situation has prompted authorities to enforce new measures, namely requiring Covid-19 certificates for entry into bars, restaurants, gyms, and nursing homes from December 3, a restriction that was already in place in nightclubs and indoor venues with dance floors.  

It is against this backdrop, and days before the long weekend where people are expected to travel and socialize more than usual, that Catalan News spoke with Dr. Magda Campins, the chair of Catalonia’s Covid-19 Scientific Advisory Committee that provides recommendations directly to the government and head of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Vall d'Hebron Hospital in Barcelona.

Here is what she had to say about the newly discovered Omicron variant, the upcoming Christmas holiday season, and more:

Omicron has been detected in Catalonia. What do we know about this variant so far?

Right now, it seems that most confirmed cases are mild and nobody has been hospitalized. If this is truly the case and vaccines are sufficiently effective against this variant, we should not have much trouble. 

It’s only a matter of time—if it is more transmissible—before it ends up replacing Delta [as the dominant strain]. Closing borders should be done only temporarily to adopt other measures to delay its spread and to administer booster shots.

Will we need more restrictions?

I think there will be more cases in the coming weeks. If hospitals are overloaded and not all patients can be treated, then more restrictions should be put in place, like capacity or time limits in places where there are a lot of people.

What precautions should we take over the holidays?

I think company Christmas meals with people from different social bubbles should be avoided because they are risky.

As for holiday meals with family members, they should take place with extra precautions, and most people should be vaccinated. If they are not, it’s hard to tell them not to come, but they should get a PCR test 48 hours beforehand 

Who should be getting booster shots?

Those who are most vulnerable and people over 60 should of course get boosters, but I think we need to gradually expand coverage to all adults over 18. Right now, the ECDC recommends third doses for people over 40. Once that has been done, we should give them to 18 to 40-year-olds. 

For now, we should give booster shots to people over 18 and before giving them to over 12s, we should consider vaccinating younger children.

What would you tell someone who does not want to get vaccinated?

Out of all the millions of people who have been vaccinated worldwide, we know that adverse vaccine side effects are extremely rare and, therefore, they should not fear side effects, but rather getting Covid and ending up in an ICU and possibly dying. 

If all of these arguments and all of the scientific literature and studies that show that vaccines are effective and safe don’t convince them for their own sake, then they should do it for the sake of others.

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