Priority must be given to those who need the vaccine most, Spahn said during a press conference on Friday.
It means elderly people in care facilities across Germany are to be given the vaccination first. “In doing so, we will first offer protection to those who also particularly need it,” Spahn said.
Doctors and nurses in clinics will also be among the first to receive the vaccine in Germany. But in the first few days, he said, vaccinations will be given out first and foremost in nursing homes.
The minister urged other members of the population to be patient.
“I ask you to wait until it is your turn as well,” he said. “We will start first with the elderly, the very old, those who care for them and look after them, in order to protect precisely those who are particularly vulnerable.”
Vaccinations are expected to begin on December 27th. In a statement on Wednesday, Germany's 16 state-level health ministers said Spahn had announced “the expected approval and supply of the BioNTech vaccine” next week, with distribution beginning shortly before year's end.
The vaccination regulations in Germany will be adapted if additional doses become available.
Spahn also reacted to criticism that the prioritisation of the elderly expressed a lack of appreciation for nursing staff.
“This is not a question of appreciation, but of solidarity,” Spahn stressed. The people to be vaccinated first can no longer protect themselves and therefore have priority, he added.
Spahn said he was counting on everyone to understand the delicate situation.
One in two deaths from or with coronavirus involve people over 80, he said. “Protecting the most vulnerable is the first goal of our vaccination campaign,” said Spahn. This will take one to two months, he added. Only then can the programme be broadened out to others.
The transition between vaccinations for the different priority levels will be smooth, said Spahn. He plans to discuss with the federal states when the next steps can be taken.
According to Spahn, 11 to 13 million vaccine doses will be available in the first quarter, possibly more because of the expected approval of additional vaccines. Germany has around 83 million people.