Family doctors in Germany to begin offering Covid-19 jabs as vaccine campaign speeds up

Coronavirus vaccinations in doctors' offices are to begin after Easter and gradually ramp up, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Thursday.

Family doctors in Germany to begin offering Covid-19 jabs as vaccine campaign speeds up
Johnson's and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: AFP/Kamil Krzaczynski

“This won’t be a big step yet, but it will be an important one,” said Spahn (CDU) at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. 

For the first week of the new campaign, 35,000 GP practices have already ordered 1.4 million vaccine doses. According to the plans of the federal government and the states, 940,000 doses are to be initially delivered to doctors.

READ ALSO: Germany to make vaccines available at GP practices: What you need to know

In addition, vaccination centres throughout Germany are to receive 2.25 million doses per week.

Procedures are now being put in place in order to significantly increase the amount of jabs offered in a few weeks, said Spahn. 

By the end of April, he said, more than three million doses per week would be provided to doctors’ offices. The vaccine is delivered from wholesalers to pharmacies, following governmental approval, and then to practices. 

The first step will be to start with family doctors’ practices, and then specialists will also receive the vaccines.

Which vaccines will be used?

For the first two weeks, practices are to use only Biontech/Pfizer vaccine, Spahn said. Starting the week of April 19th, AstraZeneca is also scheduled to be used, followed by the introduction of the US’s Johnson & Johnson vaccine the following week.

Spahn called on people who already have appointments at vaccination centres to keep them.

“The 430 vaccination centers we have so far will be joined by 35,000 more after Easter, and that’s no Aprilscherz (April Fool’s joke),” said Adreas Gassen, head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Here’s the German vocabulary you need to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Germany has been criticised for a sluggish vaccination programme met with supply shortages and an ongoing controversy over the use of the AstraZeneca jab. Spahn previously promised that as many vaccines would be carried out in April as during the first quarter of the year. 

As of Wednesday, only five percent of Germans had received both a first and second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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Vaccine scramble: How Spaniards want Covid jabs more than other Europeans

Whilst the EU warns that unused doses due to vaccine scepticism are piling up, Spaniards of all ages want to achieve immunity against Covid-19 as soon as possible, the data shows. 

Vaccine scramble: How Spaniards want Covid jabs more than other Europeans
People queue to get the vaccine in Barcelona. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

In Spain, where the Covid-19 rollout has gone from one of the slowest in the EU to currently one of the fastest, pretty much everyone wants to get vaccinated. 

With priority groups almost fully immunised, Spain is still beating daily records with 600,000 to 700,000 doses administered every day. 

The spike in cases among the country’s young population has led several regions to bring forward jabs for teens and twenty-somethings ahead of people in their thirties.

Despite the apparent lack of concern for the pandemic witnessed  in packed squares and streets over the past weeks, young people who have been able to take advantage of the vaccine offer have headed en masse to the vaccination centres. 

When an Asturian youth called Ana Santos told a local newspaper that “after the elderly, it should be our turn to get vaccinated as it’s not as if people in their forties go out, is it?”, her comments went down like a tonne of bricks among this age group, who demanded it was their turn to reach full immunisation first. 

Vaccine scepticism hasn’t been a problem for Spain as it has been for other countries, with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen launching a warning recently that vaccine supplies are piling up, even though Brussels has reached its target of providing enough doses to fully vaccinate 70 percent of EU adults.

“If we look at the statistics, more and more doses remain unused,” von der Leyen told journalists in Strasbourg.

“This is linked to the fact that there is a greater distribution of vaccines, but in part also due to doubts about vaccination,” adding that it was crucial to reach the most sceptical parts of the population” in the face of the “worrying” presence of the Delta variant.

“Traditionally in Spain, we have had much less resistance or rejection towards vaccines, that’s always been the case,” vaccine expert at the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) Ángel Hernández-Merino told 20minutos. 

“In any vaccination programme, it’s vital to count on the population being willing to accept the vaccination”.

A June 2021 Eurobarometer study found that 49 percent of people in Spain want to get vaccinated “as soon as possible”, the highest rate in the entire EU (32 percent EU average). 

Whereas an average of 9 percent of EU citizens don’t ever want to get vaccinated, the rate in Spain is 4 percent.  Around 63 percent of Spaniards told Eurobarometer that they couldn’t understand why people are hesitant to get vaccinated and 71 percent said Covid vaccines are the only way for the pandemic to end. 

In Belgium, around a third of the population doesn’t want to get vaccinated.

In other countries where in the earlier stages of the Covid vaccination campaign it seemed  that available doses were easily used up it’s now becoming evident that sprinting through the age groups doesn’t guarantee that everyone is being vaccinated. 

Germany, the UK and the US, all seen as examples to Spain of how to quickly immunise a population, have all seen their campaigns slow down due to hesitancy and the summer holidays.

Spain’s Health Ministry doesn’t give data on how many people have rejected the vaccine and why, but stats do show that already more than half of the population (57.5 percent) have at least one dose and 43.3 percent are fully vaccinated. 

The Spanish government has stuck to its objective of vaccinating 70 percent of the country’s 47 million people before the end of August, even though it did fall short of its June target by more than half a million doses. 

Rather than vaccine scepticism, what’s been holding up Spain’s inoculation campaign have been doubts over the administration of second AstraZeneca vaccines and the decision to keep a reserve in case the country experienced delivery setbacks as it has in the past, with 2.9 million doses in storage reported in late June.