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VACCINATION

Who will receive the first coronavirus vaccine jabs in Germany – and when?

The wait for a coronavirus vaccine in Germany won’t last much longer - but who exactly is first in line to receive a vaccination and when? A new draft paper from the Robert Koch Institute lays out recommendations.

Who will receive the first coronavirus vaccine jabs in Germany - and when?
A test vaccination centre which was set up on December 2nd in Mainz. Photo: DPA

Experts say that the first doses of the vaccine are likely to arrive in December, and possibly in January. 

Yet, as not enough doses will initially arrive to reach everyone in Germany who wants a vaccination, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) of the Robert Koch Institute has made the first recommendation of who should receive a jab, and when.

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

Residents of care homes, as well as those over 80 years of age, will receive the first round of the vaccination, said STIKO on Monday. 

People in health care professions are also to be given preference for the vaccine. According to the StiKo list, this includes hospital staff with a high exposure risk, for example people working in an emergency room.

Health personnel are to be inoculated first, as they maintain close contact with risk groups. This includes, for example, transplantation physicians, maintenance personnel in the ambulatory old person care or personnel in homes with contact to residents. 

Overall, STIKO estimates that about 8.6 million people out of the roughly 83 million in Germany will be first in line to receive the vaccine. 

STIKO's draft is set to be followed by a three-day procedure in which German states and experts can submit their comments. This process will end on Thursday. 

The final recommendation will then be published. Germany’s Ministry of Health will prepare a legal regulation, which is to be published later in December.

Germany is currently setting up 60 coronavirus vaccine centres, in locations as diverse as old airports and skating rinks. 

However, it’s also likely that some of the vaccinations could be given at normal doctors’ practices rather than special centres, as not all would be required to be deep cooled. 

Unequal distribution?

Yet welfare organisations have warned of social conflicts and growing inequality in connection with immunisation. 

“As soon as there is an approved vaccine, we will experience a distribution debate,” said the managing director of the German Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband Parity Welfare Association), Ulrich Schneider, to the newspapers of the Funke Media Group on Monday. 

Health risk groups and medical staff would be vaccinated first, followed by those who keep the economy running and are considered systemically relevant, Schneider said.

Those who are regarded as less important from a social and economic point of view will have to “take a back seat”, Schneider said. “This will naturally lead to conflicts.” 

In addition, the distribution of the vaccine will develop into a conflict between rich and poor as soon as more vaccine doses are available worldwide, he added.

German health minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said in late November that Germany has now secured more than 300 million vaccine doses through the EU Commission or bilateral agreements. 

“Even with two doses per vaccination, we would then have enough for our own population and could share with other countries,” said Spahn, adding that everyone in the population could be vaccinated before the end of 2021. 

With an eye on applications by BioNTech-Pfizer as well as Moderna for the use of their Covid-19 vaccines in Europe, German chancellor Angela Merkel said 70 million doses in total from both types of vaccines can be delivered in the first quarter of next year if they are given authorisation.

READ ALSO: Merkel says Germany to read 70 million doses of coronavirus vaccine

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COVID-19

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

The Covid pandemic is continuing to cause problems around Germany, with concerns that the number of patients needing treatment will rise in the coming weeks.

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

In its weekly Covid report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said that confirmed infections appeared to be rising in some German states, and falling in others.

But experts warned that the situation remained tense, with many infections not reported. 

Therefore, in the coming weeks, “hospitalisations, an increase in intensive care treatment and deaths are to be expected, especially among the elderly”, said the RKI.

People over the age of 80 “continue to be most affected by severe courses of the disease”, the experts said in their report. 

The incidence of infections is continuing to rise for this age group, and the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in medical treatment facilities as well as in old people’s and nursing homes is going up.

READ ALSO: Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

The number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising slightly. In the previous week, the number was reported to be around 1,330. And on Thursday July 28th, 1,550 people were in ICUs in Germany with 484 receiving ventilation treatment, according to the DIVI intensive care register. 

The number of deaths in connection with the virus is currently around just over 400 per week. The RKI says this trend is a plateau.

When it comes to the overall picture of Covid in Germany, the RKI said there was a “sideways movement rather than a decreasing trend”.

Last week, the nationwide 7-day incidence decreased slightly compared to the previous week. The overall picture shows falling incidences in most western German states and Berlin, with incidences still rising slightly in the other eastern German states and Bavaria.

The RKI estimates there’s been a total of 800,000 to 1.5 million people with Covid (who also have symptoms) in the past week alone in Germany.

Last week experts warned that they expected the Covid situation to get worse in the coming weeks as many schools in Germany return after the summer break.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse

The Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which has dominated in Germany since mid-June, has almost completely displaced other variants. It accounts for 89 percent of samples in the past week, the RKI said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people against underestimating getting Covid again.

The SPD politician pointed out that it was very easy to become infected with BA.5 – even for those who were infected with a previous type.

He warned that many could become seriously ill or die, plus there’s the risk of picking up Long Covid.

“Therefore, we have to solve the problem not by constant infection, but by better vaccines,” Lauterbach said.

‘Call things as they are’

Lauterbach, meanwhile, defended himself against his choice of words when describing the possibility of a new dangerous Covid variant emerging in autumn. 

In an interview with Bild newspaper in April he said: “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omicron variant that is as deadly as Delta – that would be an absolute killer variant.”

He was slammed for his dramatic choice of words. 

This week Lauterbach said: “I use few vocabulary that is apocalyptic. But sometimes you have to call things as they are.”

If there were a virus that linked the contagion of the BA.5 variant with the severe course of a Delta variant, “that would be a killer variant”, he maintained.

But he stressed that he had “not said that such a variant is definitely coming, but that we have to be prepared for such a variant”.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

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