At the Leipzig University Hospital, pharmacy students Anne Brandt (m) and Sarah Schulz prepared six syringes from the SARS-CoV-2 Biontech / Pfizer coronavirus vaccine vial for vaccinating medical staff. There is currently more demand for vaccination appointments than can currently be offered.
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Since Germany started its vaccination program in late December, together with other EU members, Germany has faced many logistical challenges.
Now, almost a month into the program, its sluggish progress is causing frustration and concern among some German lawmakers and health professionals.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has targeted 300,000 injections a day, but so far the country has failed to achieve that target. Data from the public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, published Tuesday showed that in the preceding 24 hours, more than 62,000 vaccinations (most of which were the first dose) were administered.
In total, since Germany started vaccination in its 16 states on December 27, nearly 1.2 million people in Germany (the priority group for now are health workers, nursing home residents and staff and the elderly) have received their first dose of the coronavirus. of the vaccine and nearly 25,000 have received a second dose.
In contrast, the UK, which was the first country in the world to approve and launch the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (partly developed in Germany), and later the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate, started its Covid vaccination program earlier in December, has so far been vaccinated more than 4 million people with their first dose of vaccine (over 450,000 having received a second dose), and exceeded 300,000 vaccinations per day towards the end of last week.
The EU follows a policy of purchasing coronavirus vaccines as a block, but several countries, including Germany, are also making additional purchase agreements of their own.
Nonetheless, supply issues had become a problem even at the start of the vaccination campaign in Germany, with the lack of available vaccines seen in certain centers, as well as other difficult logistical issues surrounding the vaccination of priority groups, such as the elderly. This has resulted in an uneven distribution of the vaccine from state to state in the country.
Stefan HE Kaufmann, a well-known immunologist and microbiologist in Germany, and founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Infectious Biology in Berlin, told CNBC on Tuesday that the vaccination process faced challenges from the start.
“The number one priority (in the vaccination effort) at the moment is the elderly and people with severe pre-discharge disease, especially in nursing homes. This process is ethically good, but very time consuming. It also includes health workers and medical staff. “in nursing homes and hospitals. Apparently some nursing home staff are hesitant about vaccination,” he said.
Fenna Martin (C) Marielotte Kilian (L), 87, and Richard Kilian (R), 86, vaccines against Covid-19 at a vaccination center installed at the congress center in Wiesbaden, west Germany, on January 19, 2021, as a federal state western Hesse opens its first six vaccination centers amid the new coronavirus.
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So far, only vaccines made by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as Moderna have been approved by the European Medicines Agency for use in the block. Candidates that are easier to store and transfer (and cheaper) from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have not been approved.
Timing is critical when it comes to vaccine launches, especially amid the spike in cases due to more infectious mutations that have already occurred. However, Germany has recorded fewer cases than many of its neighbors, recording more than 2 million infections to date. The death toll reached 47,958.
For the UK and EU, the main problem is that supply cannot meet current demand for vaccines, and Germany is no exception, with early reports of people struggling to get vaccination appointments amid under-dosing. But vaccine makers have promised to increase production and have millions more doses delivered in the next few weeks and months.
Meanwhile, however, “the doses that are secured for immediate use are insufficient,” Kaufmann says.
“While so-called vaccination centers have been established all over Germany, there is currently a shortage of vaccines for the maximum rapid vaccination coverage in these centers. The hope is that the process will be accelerated once the difficult and time-consuming vaccination (in nursing homes) has been achieved, “he said, noting that the speed of the German vaccination program” would be faster if more doses of BioNTech and Moderna could be obtained. “
“In my opinion, everything needs to be done to secure more doses for immediate or short-term use. This is even more important because of the increasing incidence of mutant strains that can evade the vaccine-induced immune response,” he warned.
Germany is not alone in seeing a slow start in its vaccination efforts. There has been criticism across the European Union of the European Commission for not getting enough vaccines for the bloc.
Florian Hense, European economist in Berenberg, told CNBC that the approval and procurement process means that the EU is behind, or at least behind other countries including the UK and the US, in terms of receiving vaccine supplies.
“Because the EU negotiates with pharmaceutical companies and approves vaccinations on behalf of its member countries, Germany’s vaccination program will always be ‘not German’, regardless of what you associate with the term,” he told CNBC Monday.
Parents who have just been inoculated to fight COVID-19 wait a moment if side effects occur before leaving for the vaccine center at the Messe Berlin trade fair on the day of the center’s opening during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on January 18, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. This center is the third to open in Berlin. Three more will open in the coming weeks as Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccine deliveries increase.
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“I suspect that later EU approval delayed the start of vaccination and has since limited the speed of vaccination per day because vaccinations have arrived in the EU at a slower rate than what happened (per capita) in the UK, US.”
Needless to say, there has been criticism from other lawmakers of the government’s overall strategy. Janosch Dahmen, a doctor and member of the German parliament from the Green Party, told CNBC that he was “very concerned that Germany is falling behind.”
“The progress of the vaccination campaign is too slow and one reason is shortages of supply, but the more pressing problem is that the vaccination infrastructure shows many problems, most of all under staffing, distribution problems in federal states and far too many centralized approaches,” he said.
“As a doctor and politician, I am very concerned about the situation here and apart from all the efforts we need to carry out a more effective national vaccination campaign we need to build bridges because of testing, self-testing and We need to put more effort in the field of contact tracing that is is another important part of fighting this pandemic, ”said Dahmen.