Berlin Many people are unhappy with the slow pace of vaccinations in Germany. Now, the federal states want to speed up the rate of vaccinations.
With the arrival of more vaccines, German states expect to see significant progress in vaccinations against coronavirus by early April.
In several states, vaccination capacity could be doubled by then, according to a survey by Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Meanwhile, German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) rejected criticism about how long it is taking to gain approval for corona self-tests in Germany. The first three such tests are to be available for purchase in pharmacies and drugstores in the next few days, following approval.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is linking the possible easing of corona measures to rapid testing. "An intelligent strategy for opening things up is intrinsically linked to extensive rapid testing" she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Thursday). People should be able to “free themselves” through testing in order to participate in social life. "How long it will then take for such a system to be installed, I cannot yet say exactly to the day. But it will be in March." Before that, she will be consulting with the heads of the state governments on March 3 on this issue.
Health offices in Germany reported 11,869 new coronavirus infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day, this is1,662 more than a week ago. This is according to figures released by the RKI on Thursday. Also, the number of new infections within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) was 61.7 nationwide on Thursday morning, higher than the previous day (59.3). In addition, 385 more deaths were recorded within 24 hours. The data reflect the status of the RKI dashboard as of 03:10 on Thursday; subsequent changes or additions are possible.
Because of delays both in vaccinations and in the approval of tests, there has recently been increasing criticism of the German approach. Spahn himself urged a faster pace of vaccination in the states. According to the Robert Koch Institute, 5.4 million vaccine doses had been administered nationwide up to and including Tuesday, mainly to people over the age of 80. Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) called for better cooperation between the federal, state and local governments following failures to purchase enough vaccines.
The states are now hoping for a rapid expansion of capacity. In Bavaria, for example, it is expected to rise from 46,000 vaccinations per day to 111,000 by April. In Baden-Württemberg, there could be up to 60,000 vaccinations. Currently, there are 14,000 to 19,000. Increases up to doubling or even multiplying the possibilities are also possible in Bremen, Brandenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein or Thuringia, according to the states.
The states cite a shortage of vaccines as the main reason for the current situation, but they say there is no shortage of personnel. German states can expect larger quantities of vaccine by the beginning of April. According to figures from the manufacturers Biontech/Pfizer, Moderna and Astrazeneca, a total of just under 19 million vaccine doses could be delivered by then.
It is still unclear whether it will soon be possible to vaccinate general practitioners across the board. Some states are working on pilot projects. President of the Association of Physicians Klaus Reinhardt warned in the "Rheinische Post" (Thursday): "The goal of offering vaccinations to all citizens by the end of September can only be achieved if we start mass vaccinations in doctors' offices as soon as possible."
In the next few days, home testing kits are expected to be available for purchase in Germany. For these tests, samples must be taken with a swab in the front nasal area. In other countries, such tests have already been on the market for some time. Spahn explained this by saying that the reliability had to be carefully checked. On ZDF's "heute journal," he said, "Too many false results can have fatal consequences.”
Finance Minister Scholz urged better coordination. The vaccination of about 60 million people must be accomplished "quickly and as smoothly as possible," the SPD candidate for chancellor told the Rheinische Post newspaper. "After things went badly with ordering the vaccines, I don't want us to have the next difficulties with vaccinations and not even getting out the vaccines we have because the organization doesn't work.”
FDP Secretary General Volker Wissing told the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" that self-tests could also make visits to restaurants and gyms possible again. The German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) sees the rapid tests as a way to return to normality in a timely manner. "Our establishments should not be closed for one day longer than absolutely necessary," chief executive Ingrid Hartges told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.
The German Foundation for Patient Protection (Deutsche Stiftung Patientenschutz) welcomed plans by the coalition government to impose fines of up to 25,000 euros on those who cut in line for vaccinations. It is not a minor matter if vaccines thus become even scarcer, said board member Eugen Brysch to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "It must not go unpunished if the lives of the elderly and sick people and those in need of long-term care are endangered." In recent weeks, several mayors and district councils, among others, had themselves vaccinated, although it was not yet their turn.