How the US is shaming Germany


Why does what works in the USA what doesn’t work in Germany? Two million Americans are vaccinated against corona every day. It was even the turn of the t-online correspondent.

One should be careful with this sentence, after all, there is currently a mixture of vaccination urge, vaccination frustration and vaccination envy in the air, but I want to start the column honestly: I got my first corona vaccination.

On Thursday eight days ago I started the hunt for a vaccination, on Friday I got an appointment and on Tuesday at 12.20 p.m. a friendly pharmacist named Khalid poked my right upper arm in a room where pensioners play bingo at normal times .

At last I can tell you a success story from America. And what the US can do with vaccinations should actually put the federal government in Germany to shame.

Before someone is outraged that a half-young man like me (still not 40!) Is already getting there, I want to emphasize: I didn’t push myself forward. I was very lucky, but it was actually my turn. This week Washington greatly expanded its vaccination program to include anyone aged 18 and over with a pre-existing condition such as asthma or diabetes.

Two million Americans are vaccinated every day right now. Every sixth citizen has already received a dose, 16 percent – in Germany it is just 5.5 percent.

Donald Trump, who did just about everything wrong in the pandemic, was right about the vaccine. He ordered a lot very early on, without knowing whether the fabrics would work or not.

The only thing he didn’t care about was the distribution in winter, because his horizon was only enough for a choice. Luckily Joe Biden got that under control. His team was already working out the plans when he was not even in office. Vaccination is now done in football stadiums, by drive-thru in parking lots and in supermarkets. Vaccine is still not exported: When it comes to vaccination, America First also applies under Biden.

Mass vaccination station in Los Angeles: America First, also under Joe Biden. (Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Is everything going perfectly here? No, God doesn’t know, and I’ll tell you based on my hunt. It started in a somewhat strange place: the fruit counter in the supermarket. In the US it is common for the large supermarkets to have an integrated pharmacy and also vaccinate these pharmacies. So it was against flu and tetanus, so it is now against Covid.

In the days before, the hunting fever had risen noticeably in Washington: the more vaccine there was, the more conversations revolved around the question of how to get it now. A much discussed option: go to the site to perhaps get a dose taken from the refrigeration that is left over and needs to be injected before it goes bad.

I went to a giant supermarket, where they weren’t even vaccinated in the pharmacy area, but in the snack corner. When I called at noon, I was told to come back at five in the evening. Later, at a quarter to five, two dozen people were lounging outside the snack and vaccination area. There was no queue, one stood wildly and restlessly around the fruit stands.

A man came out of the vaccination area and said, “Looks like we have three excess doses.” Disappointed to uncertain looks at the fruit counter. Then he started to ask, “Is there anyone over 80 here?” Remain silent. “Over 65?” Nobody. Nurses? Front-line workers? Police? Military? There weren’t even any supermarket employees in our group. Teacher? The hand of a woman wearing a gas mask-like face mask shot up. Lawyers? Two more women answered. The rest looked at: Lawyers – seriously? So the three cans were gone. Some were still arguing vigorously with the pharmacist, and I left. It was like the Wild West.

Vaccination in front of the orange juice refrigerated shelf: Vice President Kamala Harris visits a supermarket.  (Source: Getty Images / Drew Angerer)Vaccination in front of the orange juice refrigerated shelf: Vice President Kamala Harris visits a supermarket. (Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The next morning at nine, Washington gave 4,350 vaccination appointments – the first slide for those with pre-existing conditions. From five to nine I sat at the computer. To be more precise: my wife and I sat in front of two computers and our two telephones.

Of course, the system collapsed instantly. Even the so-called captcha entry, the digital admission control, where you have to prove that you are not a robot, gave up. Even with the telephone number, which you should use as an alternative, you were always thrown off the line after the second ring. In short: it was a technical disaster.

But I just kept going and actually got through on my wife’s cell phone half an hour later. I was able to enter my details and came to schedule an appointment. The supermarket I was in the day before: full. Other markets: no appointment. It wasn’t until I clicked on an address on the other end of town that was completely unknown to me that I was successful. A touch of the Wild West on the Internet too.

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Then on Tuesday I drove from the northwest to the city limits in the southeast. In Washington these are not just cardinal points, but different living environments. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of white people living in Northwest who are doing well. In Southeast, however, blacks, many of whom are not doing so well.

As I drove across Washington and the Lincoln Memorial, then the Capitol Dome and finally the Anacostia River, I got the idea mentioned at the beginning: Is the white man from the better part of town taking away someone else’s appointment on the doorstep? Someone who can use him more urgently? Am I part of the solution or the problem?

Nothing in America can be understood without the intricate racial relations, including the vaccination issue. Blacks – generally speaking – have Corona more often because they rarely have jobs or houses where you can avoid others. And they get vaccinated less often, because there is a mistrust of doctors because gruesome medical experiments have eaten into the collective memory.

Now, of course, there are also social opportunities: Those who have the time and knowledge are better off making their way through the jungle of vaccinations. The question has also occupied many ethicists here recently. The American-pragmatic answer is always: Who knows whether the appointment would otherwise really go to someone in need? In the end, every vaccination helps, so please don’t feel guilty.

After half an hour I arrived at my vaccination site, a small senior citizen center. It was a bit chaotic and cramped inside. Only on the form that I had to fill out did I read which vaccine was about to be available. “We get Moderna,” I said to the man in front of me in line, he too knows and maybe around fifty. “I would take anything, even Astrazeneca,” he replied and laughed. Of our group of ten who were called in, six vaccine candidates were white and four were black. Nobody looked older than 65.

Brief introduction from our chief vaccineer: If you have side effects, just take painkillers, he says. That too: American-pragmatic. When it was my turn, I asked him if a photo was okay. Where I come from, I would have to wait a long time for a vaccination. Where, then? Asked Khalid. When I answered Germany, he just said: “Oh.” It sounded surprised. Then he puts the “shot”.

His “Oh” stayed in my ear for a long time on the way home. And as much as I am relieved that I got a vaccination: I would have preferred it if my mother at home in Germany got her vaccine first. But that will probably take weeks. Because the USA and Germany are in two different worlds here.

An old rule for correspondents is to refrain from making comments about home from afar. But let me put it this way: I find what I have been hearing about Germany’s corona policy here these weeks, astonishing.

While Joe Biden is ordering more and more vaccines here and persuading companies to cooperate and while I can get tested free of charge at six or seven locations in Washington every day, German politics seems sedate. One hides behind a language that veils, speaks of a “breathing opening matrix” (Söder), sets up a “test logistics task force”, while millions of vaccine doses are stored in front of them without being injected.

And while not only the President and Cabinet are vaccinated here, but almost all members of Congress, I wonder why the Chancellor graces herself before vaccinating. As head of government, she should be protected and also live up to her role model function.

A lot now suddenly seems to work better here. It’s definitely not going to be fair and smooth, and in some states like Texas the governor is already pretending that Corona is over again.

But great forces are currently being mobilized and there is noticeable progress, with testing and vaccination. After the gloomy American year 2020, that’s good news.

In any case, I am grateful that I got the first dose – even if I still struggle with the side effects. And I wish each and every one of you that you too can get the “shot” very soon.

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