Germany expects ‘up to 100 million’ doses of promising Covid-19 vaccine

The EU Commission has finalised negotiations on a contract for the supply of the promising vaccine being developed by Germany's BioNTech and US firm Pfizer.

Germany expects 'up to 100 million' doses of promising Covid-19 vaccine
German Health Minister Jens Spahn. Photo: DPA

“The negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry have been concluded,” Commission circles confirmed to DPA in Brussels on Tuesday.

Before the announcement, Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Tuesday he had expected the final contract to be completed in the coming days, reported the Tagesspiegel.

According to the preliminary agreement between the EU and Mainz-based BioNTech plus US Pharma giant Pfizer, at least 200 million vaccine doses are guaranteed for Europe. Spahn said he expected that Germany would receive “up to 100 million” doses.

While speaking to ZDF on Monday night, Spahn said it was important for Germany to receive the vaccine quickly.

“As German Health Minister, I would in any case find it difficult to explain if a vaccine produced in Germany were to be issued faster in other regions of the world than in Germany itself,” Spahn said.

He said the federal government is putting pressure on the EU Commission “to ensure that the contract is signed without delay”.

BioNTech and Pfizer said on Monday their vaccine candidate prevents the lung disease Covid-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, in more than 90 percent of cases.

READ ALSO: Four things to know about the German firm leading the Covid-19 vaccine race

They announced their findings during an ongoing clinical trial. The two firms are now applying for accelerated approval of the vaccine in the US.

Spahn said that the approval procedures in the US and in the EU are different. However, there were also possibilities for acceleration in Europe. At the same time, the Minister emphasised that there would be no reduction in requirements, for example on potential side effects of vaccines.

The vaccine candidate would be subject to “the same high standards” as any other, Spahn said.

This is “very important” in order to gain people's confidence in this potential vaccine, he said.

A July study from the University of Heidelberg revealed that 55 percent of Germans would receive a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.

'A little bit proud'

Spahn said the success was “very encouraging in any case” and gave the world confidence.

“As things stand today, we will have a vaccine for a new virus quicker than ever before in human history. An effectiveness of 90 percent is very high. By comparison, a flu vaccine is only 50 or 60 percent effective,” Spahn, of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said.

The Minister revealed he was also “a little bit proud” that a company supported by the federal government was “now at the forefront of research on the corona vaccine”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED – How Germany is preparing for the coronavirus vaccination

As The Local has been reporting Germany is pushing ahead with preparations for the vaccine. States are currently earmarking test centres and a database will be established to track who has been vaccinated for coronavirus.

According to Spahn, the EU has already concluded agreements with the pharmaceutical companies Astra Zeneca and Sanofi, which are also working on coronavirus vaccines.

A contract with Johnson & Johnson has nearly been concluded, said Spahn.

What's the latest on the coronavirus situation?

In Germany, health authorities reported 15,332 new Covid-19 infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within 24 hours on Tuesday.

According to the RKI, a total of 687,200 people have been infected with Sars-CoV-2 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic.

The number of deaths in connection with the virus rose by 154 to a total of 11,506 by Tuesday. The RKI estimates that around 429,600 people have now recovered.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.