Germany woefully behind on COVID vaccines, and shortages are only a small part of an “incredible” problem

Sedan – The German government coronavirus The answer has descended into chaos. Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to rescind a last-minute order this week for a strict Easter lockdown, accepting there was no time to implement the measure despite rising infections.

It was just the latest misstep for its coalition government, as it faces withering criticism for its handling of the pandemic, particularly its wavering vaccine launch.

The need for increased vaccines is increasingly urgent as a third wave of COVID-19 infections sweeps across Germany. The head of the government’s health agency warned on Friday that Germany could see up to 100,000 new cases a day if the spread of the disease is not curbed.

Europe’s largest economy, along with its European Union partners, has lagged far behind the UK and the US when it comes to vaccine delivery. As of this week, only about 10% of Germany’s adult population had received at least one injection of the vaccine. That compares with 55% in the UK and 25% in the US. Germany doesn’t even make the top 20 list in terms of vaccination rates worldwide.

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While the European Union is struggling with vaccine producers for more doses, supply is far from the only factor behind Germany’s low inoculation rate. Approximately 3.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are on shelves nationwide, according to official statistics.

The country is also progressing more slowly compared to other EU nations, which have received roughly the same number of vaccines per capita. Denmark and Estonia, for example, have already administered more than 160 doses per 1,000 inhabitants. Germany is below the European average at 125 per 1,000.

Proponents of the German approach point out that a portion of the unused vaccine supply has been deliberately withheld to provide second doses. But the federal government extended the recommended number of weeks between doses in mid-February, in part to address that problem.

The decentralized nature of the launch has made it difficult to blame a single entity. The 16 federal states of Germany are responsible for organizing vaccination in their own jurisdictions. Under pressure after her party failed to win two regional elections earlier this month, Merkel appealed this week to state administrators to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, which she said was hampering the vaccine campaign.

Dr. Joachim Wunderlich, a cardiologist who has assisted staff at a local vaccination center in Berlin, told CBS News that the bureaucratic process for people to get vaccinated in Germany was “incredible” and the amount of paperwork involved, ” crazy”.

“You cannot expect a person over the age of 80 to fill out 10 pages and numerous consent forms and ask them to call a hotline to schedule an appointment,” he said. “And then they risk being rejected because they forgot some forms at home.”

Europe resumes vaccines against AstraZeneca


Public confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, in particular, has also been a big problem. The government, along with several other EU nations, stopped using the injection for a few days earlier this month, after reports that people who’d had it developed spot clots.

Even after the European Medicines Agency clearly stated after a data review Since the vaccine was safe and that the benefits of taking it outweighed any risks, health professionals in Germany said that many of their patients were still reluctant to book appointments for the injection.

The fears about blood clots came after Germany, again followed by some of its EU partners, initially refused to authorize the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65, citing a lack of empirical data from trials showing that it was effective for that age group. That hesitation came despite significant real-world evidence from the UK, where the drug was already being given to older people, that it did help prevent serious illness.

Doctor in new AstraZeneca vaccine data


With some exceptions in remote areas, where doctors can offer vaccines, only dedicated mass vaccination centers and mobile units that visit nursing homes are currently authorized to administer the vaccines. Across the country, those facilities continue to operate at just 67% of capacity, which translates to roughly 100,000 unused appointment spaces each day.

But Germany has still only given the green light to people over 80, and those with serious pre-existing conditions, to book appointments, leaving many younger people who would like to get vaccinated without being able to take advantage of excess capacity.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at the University of Hamburg, told CBS News that while prioritization was absolutely necessary, a little more flexibility would make Germany’s inoculation campaign much more efficient.

Coronavirus - Vaccination in the Hof district at the family doctor.
Dr. Birgitt Lucas informs a 49-year-old patient about the COVID-19 vaccine before vaccinating him, on March 25, 2021, in the Hof district, in the German state of Bavaria.

Nicolas Armer / Picture Alliance / Getty

“Right now, we are in the process of vaccinating 80-year-olds and the most vulnerable members of society, which is important from an ethical point of view. Given supply shortages, we must stick to this prioritization. for now, but the whole process should be faster. ”

The government has promised to speed up implementation by allowing all German general practitioners, family doctors or GPs, as they are commonly known, to administer vaccines in their local offices.

“Germany has a well-functioning general practitioner infrastructure. If they were included, we could vaccinate at a much higher rate, and that is long overdue,” Schmidt-Chanasit said.

Wunderlich agreed.

“I know my patients, I know their concerns and their pre-existing conditions. I don’t want them to call a hotline if they could just call their GP and be able to take the hit in my office,” he told CBS News. . “The pandemic is overwhelming enough, bureaucracy and data protection laws shouldn’t make things worse.”


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