Since the weekend, vaccinations against the corona virus have been taking place in Germany and other countries of the European Union. Elderly seniors, but also nursing staff, were among the first to receive an injection with the vaccine from the Mainz company Biontech and its US partner Pfizer. At the same time, there is growing concern about the rapid spread of the mutated corona virus recently discovered in England, which has now also been detected in Germany. Scientists are now calling for a tightened lockdown that is coordinated across Europe.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said on Sunday via Twitter that the start of vaccinations gives hope and confidence. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, described the EU-wide vaccination start as a touching moment of unity.
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However, those responsible in Hungary, Slovakia and Germany had pushed ahead and had already started the vaccinations on Saturday. The 101-year-old Edith Kwoizalla received her first vaccination in Germany on Saturday in an old people’s home in Halberstadt. Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) was not informed about the unauthorized action of the Harz district and the home management. He only found out about it through a text message from Health Minister Spahn, said Haseloff on Sunday.
In Italy, a 29-year-old woman received the first vaccination
In Spain, 96-year-old Araceli Hidalgo was the first to be vaccinated. She didn’t feel anything, she reported afterwards in a nursing home in Guadalajara near Madrid. In Italy, however, the 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini received an initial immunization in a hospital in Rome. She spoke of an exciting, historic moment. Some of those who were vaccinated first also asked other people to get immunized. “Open your eyes and get vaccinated,” said the nurse Mihaela Anghel from Bucharest.
Corona vaccinations have also started in other federal states. In Berlin, a 101-year-old elderly woman received her first injection on Sunday morning in a nursing home. A 102-year-old resident of a nursing home of the Diakonie München-Oberbayern in Riemerling could be the oldest so far vaccinated in Germany.
In Bavaria, the start of vaccination was overshadowed by problems with the cold chain necessary for the vaccine in several districts in Upper Franconia. The start of the vaccination had to be postponed there. Shortly before, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder had urged faster deliveries of the vaccine and emphasized: “The vaccination logistics are in place, all you need is the vaccine.”
With growing concern, virologists are investigating the Sars-CoV-2 variant “VOC 202012/01” that appeared a few days ago in the English county of Kent. It has a noticeably high number of mutations in the genome. The surface prickly protein is particularly affected. The virus uses it as a door opener into human cells and, initial analyzes suggest, should bind somewhat better in the mutated variant. The virus could then spread faster.
“We’re playing a very dangerous game.”
Isabella Eckerle, professor of virology at Geneva University Clinics, already called for a Europe-wide approach on Christmas Eve to slow the spread of the mutant virus. In view of the first data describing significantly increased portability, Europe should prepare for a coordinated full lockdown, so Eckerle on Twitter. The virus variant discovered in England is very likely already spreading in many countries.
This assumption is supported in a first, not yet peer-reviewed model calculation by epidemiologists and mathematicians at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who forecast an increased transferability of the virus mutant of 56 percent compared to previous versions. The increased portability will likely lead to a sharp spike in incidence, with Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths expected to reach higher levels in 2021 than in 2020, the authors write.
Uğur Şahin, head of the vaccine developer Biontech, was already confident before Christmas that his vaccine would also help against the mutated virus variant. But until vaccinations can measurably curb the incidence of infections, the number of new infections must continue to drop drastically worldwide, warn experts. All countries should do what they can to minimize the transmission of Sars-CoV-2 in the coming months, WHO infection epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told the journal Science. “We’re playing a very dangerous game.”