Covid-19 vaccine in Germany: ‘Protecting the most vulnerable is first goal’

Germany's Health Minister has revealed how the country will start coronavirus vaccinations after Christmas.

Covid-19 vaccine in Germany: 'Protecting the most vulnerable is first goal'
Jens Spahn on Friday. Photo: DPA

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.

READ ALSO: Germany aims to begin vaccinations on December 27th

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.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.