Germany reaches milestone of 30 percent of population vaccinated against Covid

Germany gave out more than a million coronavirus jabs in a day for the second time, bumping up the number of people who've received one dose to over 30 percent.

Germany reaches milestone of 30 percent of population vaccinated against Covid
An employee of company Merck KGaA waiting for a vaccine in Darmstadt, Hesse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa/POOL | Arne Dedert

On Wednesday May 5th, Germany delivered 1.092 million jabs to people, giving another huge boost to the rollout.

A week ago, Germany smashed a European record by giving out 1.1 million jabs.

READ ALSO: Germany breaks European card by giving a million Covid jabs in a day

So far only China, India and the United States have so far been able to top that daily inoculation rate. In Europe, Britain had previously held the highest number of jabs in 24 hours – with 874,000 doses given on March 20th.

Journalist for German daily Welt Olaf Gersemann, who has been monitoring the vaccine situation closely, said last week’s record could still be broken if states submit any late reports.

In total 30.6 percent of the German population – 25.4 million residents have received at least one jab against coronavirus since the campaign began at the end of December 2020. A total of 8.6 percent of residents – about 7.1 million people – are fully inoculated.

In comparison, the UK hit the 30 percent target about two months ago on March 1st, and the US hit that milestone on April 2nd.

Health Minister Jens Spahn announced the news on Twitter. He also said Germany also broke a “very important” daily record for the number of second doses given out, which amounted to 200,000 jabs.

Slow start but massive improvements

Up to and including May 5th, a total of 32,596,999 vaccine doses have been administered in Germany. Of these, 25,882,244 doses were injected in vaccination centers and 6,714,755 in medical practices.

Since family doctors were given the green light to carry out vaccinations after Easter, the daily number of jabs has increased massively.

Germany’s campaign got off to a slow start, which was put down to EU-wide supply issues for vaccines, as well as bureaucratic hurdles – perhaps caused by different state procedures – and the inflexible vaccination priority list.

However, the rate of vaccinations has picked up in the last few weeks, giving hope of a momentum that will continue as the third wave begins to ease.

READ ALSO: Bavaria plans vaccines in supermarkets, schools and pharmacies

Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed last week that Germany plans to lift the priority list in June “at the latest” so every adult will be able to make an appointment then.

Germany is also pushing through a law that will see fully vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from Covid face fewer Covid rules.

Some states have already started easing rules for those who have been inoculated, for example by taking away the obligation to present a Covid-19 test before visiting a hairdresser.



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Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?

A single vaccine dose has been shown to be largely ineffective against the Delta variant of Covid-19 - so German health experts are considering whether a shorter gap between the first and second dose is needed.

Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?
A sign directs people to the vaccination centre in Berlin's now-defunct Tegel Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Soeren Stache

With the the proportion of Delta variant Covid cases rising in Germany, experts are currently mulling over a new strategy to combat it: shortening the intervals between the first and second dose of the vaccine.

The new approach is being considered in light of the fact that vaccinated people are likely to be protected highly infectious variant – but only if they have had all necessary doses of the vaccine. 

READ ALSO: Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

“The question is not a trivial one,” Thomas Mertens, the head of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), told DPA.

According to the Ulm-based virologist, there are various pros and cons to shortening the gaps between doses.

“We are currently trying to secure the necessary evidence,” he added.

So far, Stiko has been recommending longer intervals between the two vaccinations than the intervals stipulated by regulators when the vaccines were approved. 

There are good reasons for this: with AstraZeneca, for example, evidence suggests that the longer you wait between vaccines, the better immunity you have.

With limited doses of vaccines available – and ongoing supply issues – there is also an argument for providing as many people as possible with the first dose, so that as many people as possible are at least partly protected against the virus.

READ ALSO: ‘Vaccinate quickly’: German states seeing surge in Delta variant Covid cases

For AstraZeneca, the previous advice from the panel of experts at Stiko is to allow twelve weeks to elapse between the first and second dose. For the mRNA vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – the recommended interval is six weeks.

According to the pharmaceutical regulators, however, a faster course would be possible: two BioNTech doses three weeks apart, with Moderna and AstraZeneca given four weeks apart.

In the case of the AstraZeneca vector vaccine, according to the Health Ministry, those wishing to be vaccinated are free to agree the interval individually with doctors within the permitted period of four to twelve weeks.

“A certain distance improves the effectiveness of the vaccine”

Helge Braun (CDU), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, told the Morgenmagazin on Thursday that the government’s main challenge was to offer all over-12s at the least one dose of the vaccine by the end of summer.

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

Regarding the timing of the second dose, the main concern should be effectiveness, he said.

“We just know that a certain distance improves the effectiveness of the vaccination,” he told reporters. 

When pressed on whether shortening the intervals between doses was the advice of the hour, Braun said it wasn’t.

On Twitter, German immunologist Carsten Watzl pointed out that, while cases of Delta were rising as a proportion of infections due to falling infection rates overall, the actual number of infections with Delta was still stable – and may even be declining. 

This means that the longer, 12-week interval for AstraZeneca vaccinations could be still be used as long as people were fully vaccinated by autumn, he said. 

The virologist Christian Drosten has been pointing out for a long time that the first jab is not particularly effective against Delta. 

This is also the view of Watzl, who would like to see the majority of people fully protected in time for a potential fourth wave of the virus. 

“The second vaccination is urgently needed in order to be able to properly ward off the mutations,” he said in a recent interview with the German Press Agency.

“Shortening the current vaccination intervals, especially of BioNTech, of course makes sense in order to achieve complete inoculation as quickly as possible,” said the chief executive of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, on Wednesday.

“The maximum vaccine interval for BioNTech is only justified by the lack of vaccines.”

In Germany, increased shares of the Delta variant, first discovered in India, are now being recorded.

However, the number of cases caused by the mutation has only increased relatively slightly so far, while the trend for infections caused by the still dominant Alpha variant is declining more sharply.

In the future, it is expected that Delta will overtake Alpha as the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Germany.