Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz states that Germany will massively expand its vaccination capacity in the coming months of the Corona pandemic. "We have to vaccinate millions every week, by the end ofMarch, in April, in May, in June," said the vice chancellor and SPD top candidate for the Bundestag election in the ZDF program "Berlin direkt" on Sunday evening. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) had already announced something similar.
"There will be up to 10 million vaccinations per week," said Scholz: "And that this is now well prepared, I have made sure of that." Looking at the current figures, his statement seems ambitious: Last week, from March 1 to 7, fewer than 1.5 million doses were vaccinated in Germany - although that's the most since the end of December. However, the number would have to increase more than sixfold to reach up to ten million weekly vaccinations. A look at the planned vaccine deliveries to Germany also shows that more vaccine would be needed to make Scholz's plan a reality.
At present, around 7.7 million of the 10.3 million doses supplied have been vaccinated - which means that around 2.6 million are currently in stockpiles. By the end of March, around 9.9 million doses from Biontech/Pfizer, Moderna and Astrazeneca are to be added. That makes a total of about 12.5 million doses of vaccine.
Ultimately, therefore, around 20 million doses will have arrived in Germany in the first quarter, which is actually slightly more than the 18.3 million that the German government had originally planned for. In the second quarter, the government plans to add another 77 million doses. However, this includes vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Curevac, which have not yet been approved in the European Union (EU).
Calculated from Monday, Germany would thus have around 90 million doses available by the end of the second quarter, at the end of June, according to the plan. There are 17 weeks until then. From now on, an average of around five million doses per week could be vaccinated. A comparison with the vaccination leader, the United Kingdom, makes it clear how ambitious this is: medical staff there have so far been able to vaccinate a maximum of 3.1 million people in a week, and most recently only 2.5 million.
So how does Scholz arrive at up to 10 million vaccinations per week?
He probably reckons that vaccination capacities will grow continuously, i.e. that more vaccine will arrive than is currently planned and that more can be vaccinated.
So where would Germany have to go in terms of the pace of vaccination?
Scholz's calculation would work out if the number of vaccinations were to increase by an average of 500,000 per week from now on. From the last week of February to the first week of March, this increase was almost achieved: from 1.1 million vaccinations to 1.5 million.
Then, for example, there would be 2 million vaccinations the following week, 2.5 million the week after that, and so on - and in 17 weeks there would be almost exactly 10 million.But the 90 million doses that are to be delivered by the end of June are not enough. More than 100 million doses would be needed to make Scholz's plan work exactly.
Apart from the vaccine doses, the quantity of which would not suffice with the deliveries planned so far, it is unclear how Scholz plans the logistics to make up to 10 million vaccinations per week possible.
Chancellor Merkel had most recently stated "how it is logistically possible to vaccinate 7.5 to 9.5 million doses in one week." The lower end of her scale seems quite realistic. With the 90 million doses of vaccine that are to be available to Germany by the end of June, even up to 8.3 million doses would be possible in at least one week. But only if an average of 400,000 more people are vaccinated each week by then - as was the case recently. But it is only possible if it can be implemented logistically. Recently, there has been some sobering feedback from Lower Saxony, for example, regarding the planned vaccinations in doctors' offices. The hopes of the federal government's vaccination campaign rest on this.
A report in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ), for example, says that vaccination centers lack the necessary cool boxes alone, in which the vaccines from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna would have to be transported. It is also unclear, he said, whether vaccination centers or pharmacies will deliver the vaccine to practices in the future.
"Someone - the federal government or the state - should clarify the logistics now," a spokesman for the Lower Saxony Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians told FAZ. "The supply chain is a big problem." Documenting vaccinations is also a problem, he said, because it requires scanners like those used at the vaccination center - with which staff in doctors' offices in most cases have no experience.
According to the report, panel physicians in Lower Saxony consider the documentation to be far too time-consuming. The practices would have to be treated technically like outposts of the vaccination center for the Corona vaccinations, the Lower Saxony Ministry of Health explained the effort. However, the ministry passes on the responsibility to the federal government, which is responsible for this. So it might not be as simple as Scholz imagines with the 10 million weekly vaccinations.
Image by Hakan German