It’s not the start Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s Health Minister, would have hoped for. He admitted Thursday, one week after assuming office, that Germany is short of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses. He also said that he is in negotiations to purchase more vaccines, mostly from Eastern European countries.
He confirmed that BioNTech could be purchased from countries other than Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. He suggested that some BioNTech vaccine dosages for the second quarter 2022 could be ordered earlier.
Lauterbach confirmed that 35,000,000 additional Moderna doses were ordered directly from the manufacturer after EU approval. Lauterbach and Christian Lindner, Finance Minister, announced Wednesday that Germany would spend an additional EUR2.2 billion ($2.48billion) on vaccine purchases.
According to the Thursday press conference, the third “booster shot”, will be the “central building block,” in the fight against the Omicron variant. The minister added that “We must be very fast.”
At the moment, 50 million vaccines are expected to be available in the first quarter 2022. However, 70 million are required.
Lauterbach stated that he was particularly concerned after reviewing current data for the UK. There, cases of the Omicron Coronavirus variant are thought to have doubled on a daily basis. He said that Germany’s best weapon against the pandemic is an “offensive booster approach”.
Lothar Wieler (head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute) disease control agency stressed that omicron would soon be the dominant variant in Germany.
“We must ensure that Christmas is not used as a jumping-off point for omicron. He suggested that people spend Christmas with only a few people and that everyone should get tested before they go to visit elderly relatives.
Germany’s vaccination rate hovers around 70%. Recent restrictions on unvaccinated people have included a ban on accessing cultural and sporting events, as well as severe restrictions.
This has resulted in a rise in vaccines being administered, to more than one million per day in December. Children as young as 5 can now get vaccines. Lauterbach says that this will not suffice. Lauterbach, unlike his predecessor Jens Spahn is for a mandatory general vaccine.
If the demand for vaccines is not met, it will prove difficult to implement mandatory vaccinations of nursing home and hospital staff by March, as the government plans, or even a mandate for general vaccinations — which is currently being discussed.