Family doctors in Germany to begin offering Covid-19 jabs as vaccine campaign speeds up

Coronavirus vaccinations in doctors' offices are to begin after Easter and gradually ramp up, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Thursday.

Family doctors in Germany to begin offering Covid-19 jabs as vaccine campaign speeds up
Johnson's and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: AFP/Kamil Krzaczynski

“This won’t be a big step yet, but it will be an important one,” said Spahn (CDU) at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. 

For the first week of the new campaign, 35,000 GP practices have already ordered 1.4 million vaccine doses. According to the plans of the federal government and the states, 940,000 doses are to be initially delivered to doctors.

READ ALSO: Germany to make vaccines available at GP practices: What you need to know

In addition, vaccination centres throughout Germany are to receive 2.25 million doses per week.

Procedures are now being put in place in order to significantly increase the amount of jabs offered in a few weeks, said Spahn. 

By the end of April, he said, more than three million doses per week would be provided to doctors’ offices. The vaccine is delivered from wholesalers to pharmacies, following governmental approval, and then to practices. 

The first step will be to start with family doctors’ practices, and then specialists will also receive the vaccines.

Which vaccines will be used?

For the first two weeks, practices are to use only Biontech/Pfizer vaccine, Spahn said. Starting the week of April 19th, AstraZeneca is also scheduled to be used, followed by the introduction of the US’s Johnson & Johnson vaccine the following week.

Spahn called on people who already have appointments at vaccination centres to keep them.

“The 430 vaccination centers we have so far will be joined by 35,000 more after Easter, and that’s no Aprilscherz (April Fool’s joke),” said Adreas Gassen, head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Here’s the German vocabulary you need to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Germany has been criticised for a sluggish vaccination programme met with supply shortages and an ongoing controversy over the use of the AstraZeneca jab. Spahn previously promised that as many vaccines would be carried out in April as during the first quarter of the year. 

As of Wednesday, only five percent of Germans had received both a first and second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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‘This can be a good summer’: Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid

One in two Germans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, health authorities said Friday, before warning against complacency as the Delta variant is expected to become the dominant strain.

'This can be a good summer': Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid
Jens Spahn. Photo: DPA/Carsten Koall

Some 50.1 percent of the total German population, or 41.66 million people, have now been vaccinated at least once against the coronavirus, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Friday.

At the same time 29.6 percent of the population now has full protection – that’s just under 25 million people.

“This can be a good summer,” said Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday, before saying that the country needed to remain vigilant due to the spread of the Delta variant.

RKI President Lothar Wieler meanwhile warned that the numbers also showed that millions of people were still completely unprotected or only partially protected.

In order to largely dispense with the pandemic measures, the German government wants to hit 80 percent immunity – either through complete vaccination or an infection plus vaccination. 

The Delta variant, first identified in India, doubled to just over 6 percent of all new infections in Germany during the week ending June 6th in comparison with the previous seven days.

“By the autumn, it will be the dominant strain,” said Wieler.

It was “biologically logical” for the strain to become dominant simply because it was more infectious, he said.

Germany has eased most restrictions, reopening restaurants, shops, pools and museums in recent weeks as new infections dip sharply.

On Friday, it recorded 1,076 new cases, while the number of new cases over a seven day period continued to drop to 10 per 100,000 people.

Wieler said however that it was necessary to keep wearing masks indoors, such as on public transport or at offices.

“We have achieved really good results but the virus is still active and please let us give this virus no chance,” he urged.