German GPs ‘opting out’ of giving Covid vaccinations due to aggressive demand

Some GPs in Germany are reportedly opting out of administering vaccines due to the often aggressive demand and rush for a jab.

German GPs 'opting out' of giving Covid vaccinations due to aggressive demand
Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Due to high tensions and a mass rush of people wanting to be vaccinated, medical staff at their limits, according to an association representing doctors in a part of western Germany.

And some family doctors are pulling out of the vaccination rollout.

“We now have a dangerous development: numerous GP practices are opting out of the vaccination system,” chairman of the North Rhine GP association, Oliver Funken, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

The GPs were experiencing an extremely aggressive mood as the demand for vaccines increases, said Funken. At the moment, phones in practices are constantly ringing, and GPs are having difficulties keeping up a regular supply of vaccines.

The head of the association also referred to the heavy workload for those working in doctor offices.

“Of course we want to help the population, but we also have to keep the welfare of the employees in mind,” said Funken. “And also the continued existence of the practice.”

He added that it was not acceptable for staff to feel they have to opt out due to the chaotic situation and because they can’t cope with the mass influx.

Germany began allowing GPs to vaccinate patients starting in April, and has seen its campaign pick up in speed since then

READ ALSO: ‘Mood is getting more aggressive’: Thousands in Germany caught skipping the line for a Covid-19 vaccine

New freedoms for the vaccinated increasing demand

Germany will lift its Covid-19 vaccine priority list and start offering jabs to all adults from June 7th.

However, several German states, including Berlin, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, have already gone ahead and scrapped their priority lists from this week, but only in GPs or specialists.

Some people are visiting a doctor and demanding a shot, Funken told DPA.

The mood has become more acute the closer the holidays come – and the more freedoms beckon. “People want to belong to the three groups: recovered from coronavirus, vaccinated or tested,” Funken explained.

As The Local has been reporting, Germany eased some Covid-19 restrictions this month for fully vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from coronavirus. For instance, these groups do not have to quarantine after travel unless they are returning from a ‘virus variant area of concern’, such as India.

New travel rules also mean that people who test negatively for Covid-19 do not have to quarantine when they return from some countries.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed and testing rules for travel

Chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery also raised concerns about lifting the priority list.

“The GPs are overburdened by the removal of prioritisation,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday. “Now it is also up to the citizens not to call practices all at once and immediately.”

“The mood in the practices is not good,” Anke Richter-Scheer, chairwoman of the general practitioners’ association Westfalen-Lippe, told broadcaster WDR.

The shortage of vaccines is felt first and foremost by the teams in the doctors’ practices. “They have to put off impatient and sometimes angry patients,” Richter-Scheer said.

The head of the North Rhine GP association Funken hopes that additional supplies will ease the situation at the end of the month.

However, he has concerns about the summer. During the holiday months, bottlenecks are looming as many GPs and their staff will go on holiday. “We have to assume that 30 percent of the doctors’ practices will close for one or two weeks during the summer holidays,” Funken said.

300,000 vaccinations per week

The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of Westphalia-Lippe said about 80 percent of GPs and 20 percent of specialists in the area are participating in the vaccination campaign.

A spokesperson said there had been individual cases in which doctors had decided to stop ordering vaccines.

In the Westphalia-Lippe region alone, about 300,000 vaccine doses are administered in the practices every week. The number of doses has remained about the same, but more practices are coming forward to give out shots.

In Germany 38.1 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 11.9 percent are fully vaccinated.

On Tuesday May 18th, 828,213 jabs were administered to people across the country. In recent weeks, Germany has broken European records for the number of shots given out in one day.

Member comments

  1. Absolute dereliction of duty to the doctors to decide to opt out of administering shots during an emergency situation. Germanys rollout of the vaccine has been less than poor, and when it finally starts to get some steam doctors want to quit. I will concede this is not an issue the doctors created through, this is a result of ineffective policy making and irrational rules imposed by the federal and local governments. I.e. berlin to eat OUTSIDE you need a rapid test… or just get it to go and sit on some grass near by.

    1. There should be more vaccination centres, full stop. Doctors are busy enough anyway with other illnesses. Dortmund, for instance, has ONE vaccination centre, way south (Where many of the people with money live.). If you live in the North, where half the population does, you have a long journey to get there. There is a big Hospital in the North. Did they try and set up a second centre there? No, of course not. As a result we are WAY behind on vaccinations here. I am truly disgusted.

  2. What exactly is so hard about this? In the US every Walgreens and CVS pharmacy does Pfizer shots. Why can’t they get the pharmacies/apothekes here involved? The US has almost 330 million people… Ridiculous.

    1. The difference is in the usa they understand the concept of urgency. Here they would rather save a euro per shot and be at the back of the line and take weekends off. Lastly, bureaucracy, just read the local story of the high occurance region outreach clinic and you’ll see they care more about paperwork than saving people.

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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.