NOf course there is also good news in the pandemic. For example, the report from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Thursday that medical practices and vaccination centers nationwide had administered almost 1.3 million booster vaccinations the day before, more than ever before in one day since the start of the booster campaign at the beginning of June. The number of citizens who got their third injection rose to almost 23 million.
But as soon as the record was in the world, Karl Lauterbach cleared it again. The new health minister from the SPD sat for the first time on Thursday with RKI President Lothar Wieler in the federal press conference in Berlin to talk about the status of the pandemic – just as his predecessor Jens Spahn (CDU) had done dozens of times. Lauterbach did emphasize the high number of booster vaccinations on Wednesday. But that wasn’t all.
Above all, the minister called for more speed with the boosters. Much more. With the currently agreed vaccine deliveries, the booster campaign would not be complete until the end of March, Lauterbach calculated. “We can’t work with that.” The new omicron variant of the virus, which has now been detected in all federal states, is the reason for this. Omicron is considered to be significantly more contagious than the currently predominant Delta variant. Experts cannot yet say whether it makes infected people sick faster or more seriously. But it is already becoming apparent that the third vaccination could be crucial in order to effectively protect the population from symptomatic infections – i.e. those in which the infected person feels signs of illness.
That is why Germany must boost its citizens as quickly as possible – if possible before Omicron really takes hold, which experts say could happen as early as January. Lauterbach said: “The strategy of the federal government and our company is to keep Omikron as small as possible with a quick booster offensive.” This could prevent the healthcare system from being overloaded.
In order for this to succeed, Lauterbach now wants to quickly procure more vaccine. The American manufacturer Moderna has already promised to deliver around 35 million doses of its vaccine earlier than agreed. There are also talks with Romania, Poland, Portugal and Bulgaria. And Germany wants to buy 80 million doses of the vaccine from Biontech, which could then already be adapted to Omikron. Lauterbach said he wanted to think about the fourth vaccination. That would be booster after booster. “It cannot be that the particularly successful booster campaign is slowed down because we don’t have enough vaccine,” said Lauterbach.
In the coming week, doctors and vaccination centers would have ordered eight million units, but only 4.6 million would be delivered. Lauterbach made several efforts to ensure that this was not interpreted as criticism of his predecessor Jens Spahn. Rapid boosters are the strategy of the new federal government, and the high demand for vaccines is a consequence. Overall, Lauterbach expects that in Germany, ideally, another 50 million boosters will be injected and another 20 million first and second vaccinations. Currently, 70 percent of citizens are considered fully vaccinated.
Wieler urges a prudent Christmas celebration
It was Lothar Wieler who took on the role of admonisher in the federal press conference. It is “a matter of time” before Omicron is the dominant variant. “We expect that the situation will worsen, and that also applies to those who have been vaccinated.” With contact restrictions, especially at Christmas, one can prepare for this, says Wieler. And of course by fast boosters. In any case, Christmas should “not be a festival for the virus”. According to Wieler, it is not yet possible to say with certainty whether Omikron makes infected people similarly ill. But one thing is clear: “We must now prevent infections so that omicron cannot spread so quickly.”
Jörg Dötsch, Director of the Clinic for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the University Hospital in Cologne, was also on the podium that day. He campaigned for parents who want their healthy child between the ages of five and eleven to be vaccinated against Corona to do the same – even if the Standing Vaccination Commission is currently only recommending vaccinations for children with certain previous illnesses or for those who are with risk patients in a household live. “The vaccine has been approved, and initial data indicate a low rate of side effects,” said Dötsch. However, it should also be respected if parents are still reluctant and are waiting for a corresponding recommendation from the experts. “Parents shouldn’t feel stigmatized if they lean towards one variant or another.”
The head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, praised the initiative of the new Minister of Health. It is good that Lauterbach wants to get more vaccine, said Gassen. “We can only hope that this will also be fully successful.”