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After a slow start: Federal government expects significantly more vaccinations by the summer

After a slow start : Federal government expects significantly more vaccinations by the summer

Vaccinations are supposed to be the decisive tool in the fight against the pandemic. But the jolting start has caused a lot of trouble. Several positive signals are now coming from a federal-state meeting.

After a sluggish start to Corona vaccinations in Germany, more urgently hoped-for supplies are coming into view. Supplies are expected to pick up significantly by the summer, according to a new Health Ministry estimate released to a federal and state "vaccination summit" in Berlin. Pharmaceutical giant Bayer announced its entry into production of a vaccine being developed by Curevac, a company based in Tübingen, Germany. For the now approved third vaccine of the manufacturer Astrazeneca, the vaccination regulation is to be changed – priority is to give the preparation to adults up to 64 years of age.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the minister presidents of the federal states discussed via video conference, the status of the vaccinations, which started a good month ago. In view of scarce quantities, sometimes uncertain deliveries and often overloaded telephone hotlines for vaccination appointments, massive criticism has piled up. States and municipalities are calling for more reliability in delivery information so that regional vaccination centers can better plan locally.

The "vaccination summit" was also attended by the pharmaceutical industry and the EU Commission. Among those present were Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, as well as representatives from Biontech, Pfizer, Curevac, IDT, Moderna, Astrazeneca, Johnson&Johnson, Sanofi, Bayer and Schott.

Bayer and biotechnology company Curevac announced an expansion of their collaboration signed in early January. Specifically, Bayer plans to produce about 160 million doses of Curevac's vaccine in 2022. The aim is to start as early as the end of 2021, and if further development and approval steps go according to plan, it could be injected from the summer onwards – initially with doses not produced by Bayer. Curevac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said, "By the end of the year, we will have several hundred million doses available." He said 600 million doses had previously been planned for 2022. By expanding the existing production network, it would now become at least one billion.

There is also movement at the EU level. Manufacturer Biontech, for example, may ship up to 75 million additional doses of its vaccine to the European Union in the second quarter. And the pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca now wants to supply more vaccine after all. In the first quarter, nine million doses would be added, making a total of 40 million doses, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced. The manufacturer had announced just over a week ago that it would supply only 31 million doses in the first quarter instead of 80 million.

Spahn announced changes in the regulation, which details specifications for the vaccinations. The background to this is that the Astrazeneca vaccine should only be injected into adults under the age of 65 in Germany for the time being, according to the recommendation of the Permanent Vaccination Commission. "In principle, the prioritization groups will remain as they are," the minister said. However, age requirements are to be inserted.

That includes ongoing vaccinations for the highest-priority group - which includes those over 80, residents and staff in nursing homes, and health care workers in intensive care units, for example. If these workers are younger than 65, they are to be vaccinated with Astrazeneca as a priority. Those 65 and older are to be eligible for vaccination with one of the other two vaccines from Biontech and Moderna.

In addition, people with pre-existing conditions are expected to be eligible in some cases somewhat earlier than previously planned. According to a draft available to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, diabetics with high blood sugar levels, for example, will be able to receive a vaccination in the second "high priority" group. This also applies, for example, to people with chronic liver or kidney diseases and certain severe chronic lung diseases. This group will otherwise continue to focus on people over 70.

The German government reiterated its goal of offering vaccinations to all citizens by the end of the summer - but provided that everything goes as planned in terms of supplies and approvals, as deputy government spokeswoman Martina Fietz made clear. Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) told the "Süddeutsche Zeitung": "The Chancellor and the Minister of Health have made this commitment. When I follow and extrapolate the current debate about vaccine deliveries, we have to make a great effort.“

Despite the supply bottlenecks, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen believes the union of nations is on the right track. Twelve million people in the European Union have now been vaccinated - an "impressive number" in relation to the approximately 370 million adult EU citizens, she told ZDF's "heute journal“. The EU's goal is to have 70 percent of adults vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Orig. text: dpa

Translation: Mareike Graepel