NRW suspends coronavirus vaccinations, blaming supply issues
Germany’s most populous federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia, has had to suspend its coronavirus vaccination programme due to problems with delivering the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine.
North Rhine-Westphalia imposes immediate vaccination stop
North Rhine-Westphalia has announced that it is postponing vaccinations against COVID-19 for people over the age of 80 who live at home. In addition, the state’s 53 vaccination centres will only start operating on February 8, a week later than previously planned, according to a spokesperson for the NRW Ministry of Health.
State authorities have also suspended vaccinations in hospitals and other care facilities, with immediate effect. Only people who have already received their first jab will receive their second dose as planned in the coming week.
According to an email from the Ministry of Health, the reason for the “immediate vaccination stop” is supply issues with the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine. The manufacturer’s bottling plant is currently undergoing renovations, meaning that significantly fewer vaccine doses will be delivered in the coming weeks than was originally planned. The state government is therefore having to adjust its vaccination schedule.
Significantly more vaccines to be delivered by end of February
North Rhine-Westphalia is not the only federal state in Germany having to make adjustments. Lower Saxony said it had been forced to delay some initial vaccinations, while a number of appointments were cancelled in Bavaria. Elsewhere across the country, health authorities have indicated that they will hold off from booking new appointments for the time being, until they know when adequate vaccine supplies can be secured.
On Tuesday, both the state premier of Bavaria, Markus Sӧder, and the mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, spoke critically of the delays. Müller stressed that authorities needed more predictability and reliability in the delivery of vaccines; only with punctual deliveries could the vaccination centres be expected to work effectively, he said.
The Federal Ministry of Health explained on Tuesday that the renovations at Pfizer’s Belgian plant in Puurs are intended to create higher capacities. From the first week of February, therefore, significantly more vaccine doses should be delivered - up from 485.550 in the last week of January to 906.750 in the last week of February.