Executive Director of the ‘Petersburger Dialogue’ forum of civil societies in Russia and Germany Martin Hoffmann talked about the German experience of vaccination and the input of cooperation between the two countries into the fight against coronavirus.
Could you describe the current epidemiological situation in Germany?
Over a year since the start of the pandemic, Germany could finally take a breath. We have managed to convince the majority of the population that vaccination is necessary. As a result, people in Germany have become more confident that the emergence of the coronavirus Delta variant won’t cause new restrictions that had a particularly strong impact on the younger generation during the first three infection waves.
Could you please tell us about the vaccination experience in your country? What is the attitude of German citizens to vaccination?
Over the past year, the demand of the population to be vaccinated has significantly exceeded the offer in Germany. There are two reasons for that: first, the desire to protect yourself from the virus; and, secondly, the desire to protect other people and return to in-person communication. However, due to the initial priority to vaccinate the most vulnerable population groups including elderly citizens and people with pre-existing conditions, many people had to wait for their turn for quite a long time.
In your opinion, how can we make vaccination attractive to people?
This is not an easy question. We have to admit that the fear of virus plays a big role in taking the decision on vaccination on top of rational arguments. At the same time, it is not the most productive motivation when making choices, which often results in paralysing social processes. Thus, it has been very hard to find a middle path between negligent carelessness and excessive anxiety.
Have you been vaccinated for coronavirus yourself?
I have been vaccinated with Sputnik and I’m happy with this choice. I have never had any doubts about the need of vaccination. In Germany, due to the above-mentioned priority, the target group to which I belong has been given an opportunity to get vaccinated only since May 2021. I had to act quickly, since I work in the field of Russian–German relations. Thanks to Sputnik, I could work and travel efficiently between the two countries already since April. Thus, I managed to successfully hold a conference on 28–31 June 2021 in Kaluga together with the German–Russian forum. The conference of the partner cities hosted about 300 representatives from both German and Russian cities and municipal districts despite the fact that the epidemiological situation was still quite strained in Russia.
What forms of cooperation between Germany and Russia can serve the common cause of moving out of the pandemic, in your opinion?
I believe that scientific cooperation between Russia and the European Union in the field of healthcare has a great potential. This is in spite of the fact that in the current complicated situation the development has been slow and the produced vaccines have not been mutually recognised. Looking back, no country or political force wants to take the responsibility for that, of course. As a citizen, I cannot and I don’t want to make judgements on the reasons of this conflict. However, it is clear that in case of a new virus, this must not occur again. We are under an obligation to the European population for the current situation.
What is your vision of the joint development in virology research between the scientists at St Petersburg University and in Germany?
Here we also take into account positive joint experience in the activity of universities. I have no competence to talk about specific research projects. However, the recent thematic years devoted to science and healthcare have proved once again that Russian–German cooperation continues to have the mark of high quality.
Do you think the COVID-19 vaccination passports will be wide-spread in the near future? What is your opinion of this initiative?
I'm convinced that the fight against coronavirus cannot and should not have any political boarders. Only the medical aspect should be taken into consideration and in this respect, the case of Sputnik is beyond dispute. However, we should look ahead. Unfortunately, countless mutations as well as new dangerous virus variants will keep emerging. Here the same principle should be applicable as in politics, public activity and economics: being a supporting pillar of Europe, Russia is indispensable for its peace and prosperity.