"No longer acceptable": Immunologists criticise Germany's vaccination strategy

"No longer acceptable": Immunologists criticise Germany's vaccination strategy

Instead of giving as many people as possible their first dose of a vaccine against COVID-19, Germany is stockpiling doses for second jabs. Immunologists have suggested that this is unnecessary, and are calling for a more flexible approach to speed up the vaccination rollout. 

Germany stockpiling 3,5 million vaccine doses

With Germany now firmly in the middle of a third wave of coronavirus infections, the German Society for Immunology is accusing the federal government of failing to use a simple means to accelerate the vaccination rate. “We often only vaccinate half as many people as is possible,” said the society’s general secretary, Carsten Watzl, in an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. 

Germany is currently holding back between 20 and 50 percent of available vaccines doses for second jabs, depending on the manufacturer. By the start of last week, the stockpile of unused vaccines had grown to 3,5 million doses. 

However, since this policy was put in place, the official recommendation for the interval between the first and second doses has been increased - from 21 to 42 days for BioNTech and from 28 to 42 days for Moderna, meaning health authorities have more time to play with when it comes to vaccine distribution. 

Watzl is therefore arguing that Germany should adjust its approach and use up all available doses as soon as possible - to give at least some protection to a larger number of people - and then carry out second jabs once the next delivery of vaccinations has been received. “In view of the current situation, putting aside the vaccine is no longer acceptable and costs human lives,” he said. 

Politicians criticise Germany’s rigid approach to vaccines

Watzl is not the only figure to have suggested that Germany should be adopting a more flexible approach to vaccinations. Last week, the mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, made statements to the same effect, while the CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak also said that the federal government should consider loosening its priority list to make it possible to “vaccinate as many people as possible very quickly.” 

Illustrative of Germany’s rigid approach is the case of the western city of Wuppertal, which last week announced that it had been left with 2.000 unused doses, because it had finished vaccinating everybody from the over-80 age group, but had been held back from moving onto the next group by state authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia, who wanted to keep the whole state in sync. 

The strategy of delaying the second jab to vaccinate more people in the meantime is being used in a number of other countries worldwide, including the UK, where more than 50 percent of adults have now received at least one vaccine dose. Back in January, Germany was considering adopting the approach, but eventually decided against doing so. It remains to be seen whether this latest round of criticisms will force the government to adjust its position. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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