• Germany's news in English

Merkel to get swine flu vaccine for 'the public'

AFP · 21 Oct 2009, 12:08

Published: 21 Oct 2009 12:08 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Criticism over "government-only" flu shots, reserved for soldiers, police officers, and essential workers, comes against the backdrop of a nationwide immunisation campaign due to start next week.

The A/H1N1 virus has so far affected just 23,000 people in Germany, but the government is keen on vaccinating as many people as possible to avoid a possible large-scale outbreak at the start of the winter season.

But revelations in the press that top officials and other essential workers will get the Celvapan vaccine, manufactured by Baxter, which has fewer side effects than the mass Pandemrix vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, has caused a public outcry.

Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm has rejected accusations of a "two-tier medical system," saying both vaccines have equal worth.

Three vaccines - Pandemrix, Celvapan, and Focetria - have been approved by the European Union to fight the swine flu epidemic and "there isn't a 'better' or a 'worse' one," Wilhelm told a news conference Monday.

Merkel "will be seeing her regular general practitioner, will get his advice, and then will be vaccinated" with Pandemrix, the jab meant for the general public, Wilhelm added.

A number of newspapers nevertheless worried that the government was giving the appearance of double standards.

"How can an ordinary citizen understand that a vaccine with fewer side effects has been ordered for ministers than the one intended for the masses," asked the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Health ministry spokesman Klaus Vater explained that the government had ordered 200,000 vaccines from Baxter last year, in the wake of the bird flu scare, as a precautionary measure to protect essential workers from swine flu.

The government later ordered 50 million vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline to allow for the double dose vaccinations of some 25 million people in Germany, or about a third of the population.

The specialist for health matters at the social-democratic party, Karl Lauterbach, told the Stadt-Anzeiger Cologne newspaper that the Pandemrix jab was not recommended for young children and pregnant women because of possible side effects.

He also strongly criticized the government's information policy saying that the present row might lead people to forgo immunisation altogether.

Story continues below…

Recent opinion polls have suggested that Germans are not overly concerned about the flu which appears to have killed only two people to date in the country.

An Emnid poll said 59 percent of Germans had no fear of the flu.

The European Union recently warned against complacency over the spread of swine flu and urged people to get vaccinated even though the virus has not hit as hard as first feared.

"Even if the pandemic situation isn't so dramatic in Europe right now, we have to listen to the experts who say it's not time to lower our guard," said Swedish Public Health Minister Maria Larsson, whose country holds the EU presidency.

The swine flu has killed over 4,700 people in 191 countries and territories since it first appeared in the spring, according to the World Health Organisation.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Munich to get 'nice toilets' to serve cross-legged locals
Photo: DPA

The Bavarian capital has a pee problem - the city only has one public toilet for every 13,000 inhabitants. But a new plan could rescue desperate locals, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

German kids get glowing report for their English skills
Photo: DPA.

As if multilingual Germans don't already put many English-speakers to shame, now the younger generation is improving their English skills even more.

Berlin museum controversially recreates Hitler bunker
The reconstruction of the Hitler bunker. Photo: DPA

Sensationalized or compelling history? Berlin museums clash over new Nazi bunker exhibit

Germans think they're fit, but they're really couch potatoes
Photo: DPA.

There's been an increase in the number of Germans who define themselves as "fit", but their lifestyle choices don't quite match this self-perception.

10 fascinating facts you never knew about German beer
Tennis coach Boris Becker and his wife Lilly at Oktoberfest 2016 in Munich. Photo: DPA

From malt and monks to Radlers and rivalries, the story of German beer is as rich and wonderful as its selection.

Intensive farming 'endangers a third of German species'
Photo: DPA

There are 32,000 species of animal, plant and mushroom life native to Germany. Due to intensive farming methods, one in every three of these is endangered, a new report shows.

German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd