Status: 03/25/2021 4:44 a.m.
The government’s crisis management comes under increasing criticism. The vaccination campaign is also making slow progress. This is partly due to a lack of flexibility – but it’s not that simple.
By Sandra Stalinski,
Germany does not even appear on the list of the top 20 vaccination rates worldwide. The vaccination quota indicates how large the proportion of the population of a certain country is who has already been vaccinated at least once.
At the top is the island state of Seychelles, with a rate of 63.5 percent. However, the state only has a population of just under 100,000. In second place is Israel with almost 60 percent, and in third place is Great Britain with a good 41 percent (as of March 21, 2021). But Chile (30 percent), the USA (just under 25 percent), Serbia (a good 19 percent) and Hungary (just under 17 percent) leave the Federal Republic far behind with a good nine percent.
Germany could be faster
“How can that be?” Has been the question in this country for a long time, and the population is frustrated. The main problem is the lack of a vaccine. It was apparently wrongly or too timidly ordered by the EU. But simply shifting the responsibility to Europe is not enough.
Because even with the existing vaccine, Germany could be faster. The vaccination centers, which currently – and according to the will of the federal-state summit also until Easter – carry out the majority of the vaccinations, currently only use 67 percent of their capacity.
Around 100,000 vaccinations a day too few
The vaccination centers – with the currently available vaccine – could inoculate almost 342,000 vaccinations every day. However, they only managed 268,000 on Tuesday, and only around 220,000 on Monday, as shown by data from the Robert Koch Institute and the federal and state health ministries, which the Central Institute for Statutory Health Insurance in Germany (Zi) collects.
Why is the remaining 33 percent capacity not being used? That was 74,000 in vaccination doses on Tuesday, who could save lives in the middle of the third wave of the corona pandemic. To put it another way: What has to happen so that the vaccination campaign can finally speed up?
Too rigid rules for prioritization
The answer to this is not easy. It is echoed in the Chancellor’s sentence about the “tried and tested German thoroughness”, which is now to be “supplemented by more flexibility”. Anke Richter-Scheer can tell you a lot about it. She is the state chairwoman of the Westphalia-Lippe family doctors’ association and head of a vaccination center. “The rigid adherence to the prioritization of the vaccination sequence is a handicap,” she says in an interview with tagesschau.de.
In principle, prioritization is absolutely necessary, but a little more flexibility would make the work much easier. “At the moment we are in the process of vaccinating the 80-year-olds. Before they have all received a vaccination offer, we cannot just call a 79-year-old,” she says. “We lose a lot of time looking for who’s next. If we could be more pragmatic, we could work much faster.”
Involve family doctors earlier
Richter-Scheer – herself a family doctor – also believes that family doctors should have been involved earlier. Of course, they would also have to adhere to the prioritization. “But we know our patients, there is also trust. Vaccination information, bureaucracy and making appointments go faster, says Richter-Scheer.
Individual federal states are now moving ahead: In North Rhine-Westphalia, medical practices are now allowed to vaccinate. In Bavaria they start in April. At least a start, even if they don’t get a lot of vaccine at first. However, the time factor “making appointments” should soon move more and more into the background.
Too many reserves built up
Another problem is putting the vaccine aside for the second vaccination. Here, too, Germany has lost time in the past few weeks because vaccines have been bunkered that could have been used for further initial vaccinations. At the beginning of March, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn then recommended that the recommended intervals between the first and second vaccination be exhausted. With the vaccine from BioNTech / Pfizer, if possible, a second vaccination should not be given until after six weeks, with that from AstraZeneca after twelve weeks.
This is now being done in the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Social Affairs. “Last week we changed the intervals between the first and second vaccination: at BioNTech from three weeks to 40 to 42 days, at Moderna from 28 to 40 to 42 days and at AstraZeneca from nine to twelve weeks,” says the head of the staff unit Vaccination, Katja Schnell.
Reserves are now being released
In addition, vaccine reserves are being dissolved. “We initially held back a lot of the vaccine in order to be able to guarantee the second vaccination. Now that we know that there will be enough vaccine, we also vaccinate these reserves,” says Schnell.
According to Zi data, the inventory currently comprises around three and a half million vaccine doses. “We are assuming that it will be less and less now, among other things because more and more federal states are going over to exhaust the vaccination intervals,” says Daniel Wosnitzka, spokesman for the Zi.
Demands to do the same thing as Great Britain and to vaccinate as many people as possible once – if necessary at the expense of the second vaccination – experts reject. “Only the second vaccination offers full protection, which must be done in any case within the period prescribed by the licensing authority,” says the virologist Martin Stürmer in an interview with tagesschau.de.
AstraZeneca vaccination freeze resulted in delays
Further delays were also due to the interim vaccination stop with AstraZeneca. That didn’t improve the vaccine’s already bad reputation. In Berlin, for example, there should have been a series of canceled appointments, according to media reports.
Vaccination coordinator Albrecht Broemme gives on request from tagesschau.de but already the all-clear. The appointments have meanwhile been well accepted again after “jerking” in the meantime. This also coincides with the experience of Anke Richter-Scheer from North Rhine-Westphalia and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. Most people are happy to be vaccinated at all, regardless of the vaccine.
There are many indications that the vaccination campaign is slowly picking up speed in Germany as well. According to experts, you don’t have to do it fundamentally differently. Much should have happened much earlier.