The first coronavirus vaccine could be available in the coming months. And there was good news on Monday when Germany's BioNTech and US firm Pfizer announced their potential vaccine, which is being developed and trialed, was “90 percent effective”.
But when a vaccine does become available, there will likely only be enough for a proportion of the population at first. That means governments need to identify their priorities.
So who should be vaccinated first? German officials are currently working on proposals on how the vaccine strategy will work.
When does Germany think the vaccine will be ready?
The German government is optimistic. When it comes to a Covid-19 vaccine, authorities believe it could become available as early as the end of this year, or in the first few months of next year.
And the country wants to be ready for it. As The Local reported, the government is already scouting out potential vaccination centres across the Bundesrepublik.
But in view of the comparatively small quantities of vaccine initially expected, it may not be enough for everyone. So priority groups will be identified.
How is Germany preparing for the vaccine and who will get it first?
Scientific government advisers will present their proposals on a vaccine strategy on Monday during a meeting in Berlin. The German Ethics Council, the National Academy of Science Leopoldina and the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) plan to present a joint paper on the subject.
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The federal government has already made it clear that risk groups such as senior citizens and those with underlying conditions, as well as staff from important sectors, such as the health service, are to be among the first groups to be offered the vaccine.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a video statement on Sunday: “At the forefront are of course nurses, doctors and also people who belong to a risk group. However, that is already quite a large number (of people) in our country.”
The National Vaccination Strategy, put together by federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, also refers to a similar plan recommended by the Standing Committee on Vaccination, news site The Pioneer reported.
The federal government plans to establish a central database for the vaccinations.
“For this purpose, a web-based data portal is to be used, which is to be developed by the RKI (Robert Koch Institute) until the start of vaccination activities in Germany,” the report states.
A health worker at a test centre in Germany. Photo: DPA
In this way, the government intends to obtain as comprehensive and up-to-date an overview as possible of which population groups have been vaccinated.
Non-personal data such as age, sex, place of residence and vaccination indication, as well as place and date of vaccination and the vaccine product with batch number are to be recorded.
Where will the vaccine come from?
According to the report, the document lists seven possible vaccines for which a a licence within the EU is envisaged.
These include BioNTech from Mainz, which is cooperating with the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, and Curevac from Tübingen.
“Some vaccine manufacturers have indicated that they may start delivering vaccine doses to EU Member States before the end of 2020,” the report says. “As soon as sufficient vaccine is available, the aim is to move vaccination activities into the regulatory system.”
The health ministers of the 16 states and Health Minister Spahn agreed on Friday on a uniform and coordinated approach to the supply of vaccines in Germany.
They've decided that the federal government will procure and finance the vaccines and the states will set up vaccination centres. The vaccines will be supplied by the Bundeswehr or the manufacturers. The doses are to be distributed to the states in proportion to the population.
Will the Covid-19 vaccine be voluntary?
Yes, the government states that the vaccination will be voluntary, in line with other vaccinations in Germany.
Spahn is confident enough people will take part. He has previously said: “We need 55 to 65 percent of the population to get vaccinated to reach what is known as herd immunity and I firmly believe we can achieve this voluntarily.”
How many people in Germany belong to priority groups?
Spahn said on Sunday during a live broadcast by the newspaper Bild that up to 40 percent of residents in Germany belonged to a risk group – and these are the people who will come first.
“We have 23 million Germans over 60,” said the Christian Democrat (CDU) politician.
He said: “We are an affluent country with diseases of civilisation: diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity – all risk factors for this virus, as for many infectious diseases, by the way. If you go by the definition, 30 to 40 percent of the population are risk groups.”
Spahn also highlighted the critical state of the situation in Germany, saying pressure was building on hospitals.
Spahn said: “If about two per cent of the 20,000 newly infected people have to go to intensive care on a day, that is 400 per day. If intensive medical treatment and support lasts 15 days on average, that is 6,000,” he said, adding that Germany would reach this figure “in November – that is basically already foreseeable”.
The number of new coronavirus infections has risen sharply in Germany in the past weeks. On Saturday, the RKI reported 23,399 new cases – the highest level to date.
As expected, Sunday's figure was lower at 16,017. And on Monday 13,363 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours were reported.
The number of deaths in connection with the virus rose by 63 to a total of 11,352 by Monday.
Numbers are usually lower on Sundays and Mondays because fewer tests are carried out at weekends and not all health authorities report their figures.
Will the vaccine come up against any hurdles?
Of course on the medical side of things, the vaccine needs to be deemed safe and effective before it will be released. No one really knows how long this will take.
But there could be another issue: like other countries, German anti-vaccination campaigners and conspiracy theorists have railed against any potential Covid-19 vaccine, at times taking part in large street protests.
Surveys, however, suggest the majority of Germans are willing to get vaccinated.