Vaccinations begin in Germany

COVID-19 vaccination Vaccinations begin in Germany

Vaccinations against COVID-19 have begun across Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute, 367,331 people had already been vaccinated by 6 January. The strategy is to protect the weakest first. Mobile teams are vaccinating residents of pension, care and nursing homes, and the staff who look after them. At this stage, people over the age of 80 are also being offered the vaccination.

A syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccinations began on Sunday in Germany.

Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Lohnes

Nationwide launch: COVID-19 vaccinations have been launched across Germany – according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) 367,331 people have already received the vaccine (as of 6 January). The strategy is to protect the weakest first, so the initial thrust is targeting pension, care and nursing homes. The first group of people entitled to be vaccinated also includes everyone over the age of 80 and hospital staff who are particularly exposed.

The first vaccine doses were delivered to the individual federal states on Saturday, where they were distributed to the local vaccination centres and mobile teams. Other EU states also began vaccinating on Sunday.

Read the full COVID-19 vaccination regulations ( Coronavirus-Impfverordnung) here (German), as well as FAQs (German) about the vaccination.

"A massive national effort "

The vaccination launch has been successful in the view of Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn. "The largest vaccination campaign in the history of Germany has been successfully launched," he said at a press conference on Wednesday in Berlin – even if there has been the odd hitch here and there given the sheer scale of the challenge. Jens Spahn thanked everyone who has made it possible and noted, "This vaccination campaign was and is a massive national effort."

The Federal Health Minister pointed out that no vaccine has ever been developed so swiftly in human history. "We can be grateful and proud of this," he said.

11 to 13 million vaccination doses in the first three months of 2021

By the end of 2020, 1.3 million vaccination doses were to be distributed in Germany. As of 2021, the plan is to distribute 670,000 vaccine doses every week. Within the first three months of 2021, it is expected that between 11 and 13 million vaccination doses will be distributed. Over the entire year, Germany expects to receive over 85 million doses from BioNTech.

If all vaccination candidates are approved for use, Germany will expect to receive a total of 300 million doses. This figure includes the number of doses that Germany will receive under the contracts concluded by the EU as well as the vaccination doses agreed with German manufacturers who have received German government funding.

The order of vaccinations – people receiving nursing care and over-80s first

The COVID-19 vaccination regulations set out which groups will be offered the vaccine first in Germany. Alongside the residents and staff of care and nursing homes, the top priority group includes everyone over the age of 80. This group also embraces the staff of home nursing and care services, and the staff working in intensive care units, accident and emergency and the ambulance services.

Approved by the German supervisory laboratory

On 22 December, the Paul Ehrlich Institute issued release certificates for three batches of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine "Comirnaty". The three batches total about 4.1 vaccine doses. 

On 21 December, the European Commission approved the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for use, making the first COVID-19 vaccine available in the European Union. "Today we are adding an important chapter to our fight against COVID-19," stressed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen following the decision.

The approval was based on the relevant recommendation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke said it was a scientific breakthrough. A new vaccine for a novel disease has been developed within one year. The global effort has made it possible to develop a vaccine in an exceptionally short period of time. "This is really a historic scientific achievement," said the EMA Executive Director.

Safety is the top priority

Every effort has been made to speed up the processes involved in developing and approving the vaccine, but the top priority has always been to ensure that the vaccine is safe, said Emer Cooke. The vaccine fully complies with the EU’s rigorous standards regarding efficacy and safety. The recommendation applies to people over the age of 16. Commenting on the new variant of the virus that has been identified, for instance, in the United Kingdom, Emer Cooke said that at this moment there is no indication that the vaccine will not be effective against the new variant.

EMA – all data will be made public

The market approval involves an obligation for all EU states to provide all available data to the EMA to enable it to monitor safety. Emer Cooke said it is clear that a vaccine can only be effective if the people trust it. That is why all data will be made public and presented in a transparent manner.