A new Covid vaccine designed to convince the unvaccinated appears to have fallen at the first hurdle as doctors in Germany report a disappointing take up for the product.
When the first 1.4 million doses of Novavax were delivered to Germany in February, it was hoped that the more “classical” method of developing the vaccine would ease the concern of people who were suspicious of the mRNA and vector vaccines currently on the market.
But less than four weeks later, the latest statistics reveal that just 40,000 people throughout the country have opted to get inoculated with the new vaccine.
In the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, where more than 26 percent of the population are still unvaccinated, just 4,000 people have received a dose of Novavax so far, leaving around 196,000 doses so far unused.
According to a recent report by Tagesschau, one vaccination clinic in Stuttgart is only administering around 50 doses of the new vaccine per day.
In Saxony, around 2,400 people have had their first shot of vaccine with Novavax and just under 700 have had two doses. Saxony has the largest proportion of unvaccinated people in the country, with around 35 percent of the state’s population still unvaccinated.
Novavax is a so-called protein vaccine which contains coronavirus-like particles which stimulate the immune system to produce defence antibodies and T-cells against Covid-19, and is therefore considered a more traditional type of vaccine, similar to the flu jab.
It is also said to have fewer short-term side effects than other types of Covid vaccines.
An estimated four million doses of the vaccine were delivered in the first quarter of the year, with around 30 million more doses due to be delivered between April and June.
With polls suggesting that unvaccinated people had a widespread distrust in new vaccine technologies such as mRNA, there were hopes that this ‘inactive’ vaccine would be enough to turn the tide.
But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has claimed that similar types of disinformation around Novavax are circulating on the internet in vaccine-sceptic circles.
This could be dissuading many from opting to get the jab.
Vaccination campaign falters
The poor take-up for Novavax comes as the Covid vaccination campaign stalls across the country.
The number of doses of vaccine issued daily has declined rapidly since mid-January 2022, when the government’s booster campaign reached its peak.
On Sunday, just 9,000 vaccine doses were administered in the whole of Germany, 5,000 of which were booster jabs. Of the remaining 4,000, half were first doses and half were second doses.
With the increasingly low take-up, the government could decide to close many of the remaining state vaccination centres.
However, the head of the Covid-19 Crisis Team, Major General Carsten Breuer, has spoken out against this course of action.
Speaking to DPA on Monday, Breuer said that the basic prerequisite for further necessary vaccinations is that the infrastructure is in place, “from the logistics to the needle in the upper arm”.
“We must now consider whether we can really close vaccination centres and if so, how quickly we can then start them up again,” he added.
He said it must be clarified to what extent doctors in private practice could then take over vaccinations and what would be covered by the public health service.
“The goal must be that if necessary, and I am thinking of worst-case scenarios, we can vaccinate the entire population, i.e. all those willing to be vaccinated in Germany, within the shortest possible time,” said Breuer.
The news comes ahead of a key parliamentary vote on whether to introduce a general vaccine mandate, which is set to take place in April.
However, with two different visions for the mandate and one bill rejecting it competing in the Bundestag, there are concerns that no one group will be able to secure a majority.
As of Monday, 75.8 percent of the German population was fully vaccinated against Covid, while 58.2 percent had also received a booster jab.