Covid-19: Looking to the future

Covid-19: Looking to the future

05 March 2021 Georg Soldner 18281 views

The Medical Section has published a statement and detailed explanation on the question of the Coronavirus vaccination. In a conversation with Wolfgang Held, Georg Soldner looks at the question more closely.

What is the current situation?

Georg Soldner Given the high incidence of people getting ill or even dying, it is essential that physicians and politicians act responsibly, even if there is much that we don’t know yet – a situation, by the way, that is not uncommon in medicine. This not-knowing and not-yet-understanding is something we also have to acknowledge in the anthroposophical movement. I am often rather taken aback at the certainty with which people judge the vaccines. I personally don’t have that certainty even though I administer vaccinations and have studied the topic for decades. We are in a process where we are learning to understand, and in this process we need both expertise and openness.

What does it mean that so many people have been vaccinated?

The important point is that severe cases and deaths are going down considerably. There is justified hope for those who have been vaccinated, especially elderly people. But we don’t know how long this immunity lasts. Protection against mutants of the virus may be less effective. Ecologically speaking, the vaccination itself forces the virus to mutate. We must also assume that those who have been vaccinated can still infect others – even if the current data seems to suggest that this happens less frequently than in the case of people who have not been vaccinated. We will have to deal with this virus for some time to come, everywhere in the world.

How do people react to the vaccine?

The vector and mRNA vaccines turn out to be not so well tolerated. Young people tend to react more strongly, often with pain, fatigue and a high temperature. This is to be expected given that the organism is stimulated to produce the Coronavirus spike protein which provokes the immune system to respond und develop immunity. This reaction tends to be more severe in younger organisms. In a Berlin hospital where staff members have been vaccinated 36% felt unwell for a few days and 12% were off work for a short period of time: a result similar to that found in the studies carried out to support approval for the vaccines. On the whole, these are acute reactions that disappear after a few days. The situation is different, however, when an organism is weakened anyway – in that case, it can be more severely affected by the vaccine. Experts are therefore advising caution with vaccinating very elderly and very vulnerable persons. The Medical Section advises to always make sure that patients are strong enough to cope with the vaccination.

How will the pandemic develop?

We should be goal-oriented rather than focus on daily figures. For those who are at risk because of their age or pre-existing health conditions, the vaccine is a valuable option. We should also acknowledge within the anthroposophical movement that the vaccination can protect older people from severe infection or even death. The central issue is that the choice, freedom and dignity of each member of our society are respected. The decision to have the vaccination therefore lies in the freedom of the individual and must not be indirectly enforced. We must continue to focus on reducing the severity and possible secondary effects of this illness. Vaccination and competent, integrative treatment, also with anthroposophic medicines, are essential steps on the way to achieving this. If we succeed, the pandemic will present itself differently – not with overcrowded intensive care units and images like the ones from Bergamo.

Now to the children: children tend to deal well with SARS-CoV-2. If adolescents go through the infection without experiencing symptoms but acquire immunity in the process, this will provide a further foundation for overcoming the pandemic. If children have grand-parents who are at risk, then the grand-parents can have themselves vaccinated. We should not vaccinate an entire generation and prevent them from acquiring natural immunization because they are considered a danger to others – using a vaccine of which we don’t yet know the long-term effects and that is not well tolerated. In my view that is unethical. Studies have shown that young children and children of elementary school age rarely infect adults. One of the reasons for this could be that they release lower doses of the virus. We must stop putting the responsibility for the health of older people (who could have themselves vaccinated) on children. In the Philippines, young children have to wear masks; children are not allowed in public spaces and all schools are closed. These children, most of whom are poor, are being deprived of their childhood! It is wrong to make people the object of protective policies whilst depriving them of essential rights even though their health is not at risk and without any proof that they constitute a risk to others.

What will living with the pandemic be like?

We will learn to live with the virus in the long term, worldwide. It will not go away in a hurry. But the main illnesses humanity is struggling with are non-infectious, chronic conditions: 55 million US citizens are expected to develop diabetes by 2030; in India, cases are expected to double from 72 to 134 million between 2017 and 2025. What these pandemically increasing chronic illnesses have in common is that they thrive on materialist and consumerist lifestyles. And they generate an excessive burden of illness of which the younger generation will bear the brunt. Our fixation on Covid-19 prevents us from giving attention to a number of medical problems, including secondary effects of the pandemic, such as depression in young people. We will be able to deal with this challenge if we realize that the need for ecological change includes a change in the medical field. We need to decide in favour of a lifestyle that is health-oriented and based on artistic creativity, spiritual activity and social engagement rather than material values. If we are to prevent future pandemics, we have to acknowledge the spiritual dimension in other people and in all living creatures, and act accordingly.

What can be said about the spiritual dimension of the pandemic?

Understanding spiritual quality means first of all being with the sick and with the dead, accompanying their suffering and their death. This calls for earnestness but also for courage and trust. The message is that it depends on our attitude, on our active solidarity, on how carefully we listen to what others perceive; and on how sensitive we are to whether we are perceived as being helpful. A society that wants to deal with the virus needs dialogue and forums where everyone can be heard; where civil society can come together, where generations listen to each other and consult together on what needs to be done – until it is possible to believe that the other means well with his or her actions. This will lead to diversity rather than simplicity. In my view, spirituality in dealing with Covid-19 is less apparent in the – often well-known – spiritual explanations I provide, but in the moral imagination we develop in order to come out of the crisis differently from how we went into it. Let’s take our cue from those to whom Rudolf Steiner committed his whole life: from the children. Let us support their development, let us reflect on the kind of world we would wish to pass on to them. We are jeopardizing the future of our children – not the other way round.

English by Margot M. Saar.

For more information see: G. Soldner and D. Martin: Covid-19 Vaccination

Cover image: Fabian Roschka