Sluggish vaccination start: almost a million vaccination doses remain in the warehouse

Sluggish vaccination start
Almost a million vaccine doses remain in the warehouse

From Hedviga Nyarsik

The calls for more vaccine are getting louder. Of the 1.3 million vaccination doses already delivered, only 370,000 were vaccinated. The rest are still waiting to be distributed. Why is that? Explains

Because of the slow start to vaccination, the federal government is currently countering a lot of criticism from all directions. SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil recently spoke of “chaotic conditions”. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder and health politicians from other parties made similar statements. Leopoldina researcher Frauke Zipp even sees a “gross failure” of the federal government. The unanimous accusation: too little vaccine was ordered.

The 1.3 million vaccine doses already delivered are far from being used up. According to the Robert Koch Institute, only around 370,000 (as of January 5th) have been inoculated so far. Almost a million cans are waiting to be distributed in the federal states’ secret cold stores. There are two decisive reasons for this discrepancy: On the one hand, the difficult vaccination logistics and, on the other hand, the timing of the vaccinations.

“With the decision to first vaccinate in nursing homes, it was clear that things would start more slowly,” said Spahn in the “Rheinische Post”. “Mobile teams have to be deployed there, which is more time-consuming than in the vaccination center.” In fact, the vaccination campaign in the nursing homes has not started as well as planned. The vaccination teams progress at different speeds in the federal states. By Wednesday, Saxony only had a rate of 2.6 vaccinations per 1000 inhabitants, while Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had a peak of 11.2. Lower Saxony (1.9) and Thuringia (1.7) bring up the rear.

Declarations of consent are missing

Federal states repeatedly report problems with the use of vaccines: Corona outbreaks in nursing homes make tour planning for the teams difficult. The health ministries in Saxony, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate also complain about the lack of declarations of consent from residents. The German Red Cross (DRK), which organizes the vaccinations in the homes in Rhineland-Palatinate, did not expect the start until the new year, said a spokesman for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. But since the approval of the Biontech vaccine came shortly before Christmas, the start of vaccination was brought forward.

The homes had to determine whether residents and employees were ready to be vaccinated within a short period of time. Not an easy endeavor over the holidays. “All residents must have been informed before the vaccination and have submitted consent forms,” ​​said Kai Kranich from the DRK in Saxony in the MDR. This is particularly problematic for residents who are not able to consent. If a resident has dementia, a guardian’s signature is often required. However, this is often missing.

Nationwide, for example, there is always the curious situation that a mobile vaccination team is ready, but the vaccine still cannot be administered. “With the exception of the current week, we have not yet been able to exhaust our capacities,” said the DRK spokesman in Rhineland-Palatinate. The vaccination teams were able to visit just 60 facilities in the first week after the start of the vaccination. 140 were planned.

Doses blocked for second vaccination

Another reason why not all available vaccine doses are distributed equally is probably due to the vaccination frequency: to be fully effective, everyone must be vaccinated twice. That is why countries are holding back half of the vaccine so that they always have enough doses for the second vaccination. The Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) also recommends this approach.

Therefore, the federal states have so far blocked the same number of doses that they squirt. “We do not yet know when the next vaccine delivery will come, maybe not until next week,” said Martin Helfrich from the health authority in Hamburg. It must be prevented that the vaccine runs out. Of the approximately 29,000 vaccine doses that Hamburg has received so far, 4756 were administered up to and including Monday – here too, initially in nursing homes and hospitals.

Most recently, there were considerations to postpone the second vaccination by several weeks so that more people can be vaccinated soon. Great Britain had already chosen this route. The WHO also considers an increase in the time interval between the necessary two doses to be justifiable. The Mainz vaccine developer Biontech, however, had warned against it. There are no data that demonstrate safety and efficacy in the event that the two doses are injected more than three weeks apart, the company said. Spahn also rejected a longer vaccination interval.

The Minister of Health was confident that all residents of nursing homes would receive a vaccination offer in January. The federal government expects four million doses of the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine by the end of January. In addition, with the preparation from Moderna, another vaccine has been approved in the EU. For Germany, a total of 50 million cans are secured through the EU. Negotiations are already under way nationally about further doses.

But not only must sufficient vaccine be available, vaccination logistics must also work better. Frank Bergmann, head of the North Rhine National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, is confident: At first the nursing homes were “differently well prepared,” he told WDR. But he is assuming that the vaccination operation will now run “more evenly”.

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