The vaccination campaign in Germany has already been running for two and a half months - but only 6.7 percent of Germans have received at least one dose so far, and 3.1 percent are fully immunized. This proportion is now set to rise rapidly. The members of the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK) agreed on Wednesday evening on the recommendation to call on physicians in private practice for the vaccination campaign from mid-April at the latest. The exact date will be set by Chancellor Angela Merkel with the state premiers in the near future, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. The good 400 vaccination centers in Germany will continue to exist.
"In the future, our vaccination strategy will stand on two pillars: We are involving primary care physicians starting in April, and we are sticking to the proven structure of the vaccination centers," said Bavaria's Health Minister Klaus Holetschek, current chairman of the GMK. "This gives us a strong vaccination framework." Physicians are to receive the vaccine through pharmacies. For April, Holetschek announced, 2.25 million doses per week will be made available to vaccination centers. The remaining vaccine will be distributed to physicians' offices, he said.
Exactly how many doses that will be has not yet been determined. Government spokesman Seibert said that the number of vaccine doses delivered would increase significantly in the second quarter, to five million doses a week in April. Ten million could also be reached in June. That would be more than the amount that has been vaccinated in Germany since the start of the vaccination campaign at the end of December, 8.2 million doses so far, according to the Robert Koch Institute.
Some experts had warned in advance against introducing vaccination in practices too quickly. Thomas Mertens, for example, the head of the Standing Commission on Vaccination, said that it would be more difficult for family doctors to prioritize people who are particularly at risk. The concern is based on the fact that the vaccines currently on the market do not have an unlimited shelf life. Once the vial has been opened, five to ten doses must be rapidly inoculated, depending on the active ingredient. Who can guarantee that just enough prioritized people will then be sitting in the waiting room? If not, then others get their turn, who perhaps would not yet have had their turn. In the worst case, leftover vaccine ends up in the trash can - which is fatal as long as there are still too few resources to supply the population.
In favor of primary care physicians is the fact that older patients in particular trust them and that the practice is usually easier to reach than the nearest vaccination center. With the support of the doctors, hopes Health Minister Holetschek, "our system will be fully operational as soon as the vaccine is flowing in large streams."
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU Commission, said Wednesday that manufacturers Biontech and Pfizer had promised European Union countries another four million doses of vaccine in the next two weeks. The package was negotiated, she said, to vaccinate particularly in Corona hotspots and better combat the new mutations.
Germany is expected to receive 740,000 doses of the quota. Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) said this would allow an additional 150,000 doses to be delivered to the regions on the border with the Czech Republic, which have been particularly hard hit by the British virus mutation.