German Health Minister Jens Spahn has called for a “major national effort” to immunize as many people as possible against Covid-19 ahead of the start of the largest vaccination campaign in German history on Sunday.
“We want to vaccinate so many people that the virus no longer has a chance, in Germany and in Europe,” Spahn said on Saturday in Berlin. Every additional vaccination meant fewer infections and fewer deaths, he added.
“Those who participate save lives,” Spahn stressed. “This vaccine is the decisive key to defeating this pandemic. It is the key to getting our lives back.”
Vaccinations against the coronavirus began in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt on Saturday, a day before the country officially launches its campaign.
At the Krueger centre for senior citizens in the town of Halberstadt, 101-year-old Edith Kwoizalla was the first of its residents to be vaccinated.
According to observers, she took the jab calmly and with a smile – behind her face mask.
In all, 40 residents and 10 staff members were reportedly vaccinated.
The official start of Germany’s vaccination campaign is Sunday, when it will join many other EU nations in administering the shots.
Several tens of thousands of vaccine doses were delivered to German states on Saturday.
People over 80, as well as caregivers and hospital staff at particular risk, are to be immunized first.
Spahn spoke of a “great day for Germany,” stressing that the country was well prepared. “The vaccination centres are ready to go, the vaccination teams are in place.”
He also warned that given the scope of the campaign, initial hiccups were possible.
Spahn reiterated the government’s goal of being able to offer a vaccine to everyone who wanted one by the middle of the year.
The minister expected 1.3 million doses to be delivered by the end of the year, raising this figure to 700,000 doses per week by the end of January.
By the end of March, more than 10 million doses from manufacturer BioNTech are expected, with another 1.5 million doses coming in after the vaccine developed by Moderna is licensed by the European Union in early January.
Spahn defended the joint European approach to approving the vaccine.
“We did not want to go it alone nationally with emergency approval. We wanted to and will continue to stand together in Europe, also and especially in this crisis,” he said.
The European procedure had been criticized because the vaccine was approved in the EU much later than in Britain, for example.