Germany may be one of the first countries in the West to start immunizing its population against covid-19. A plan to distribute a vaccine in the testing phase is already being developed by the local government, according to people with knowledge of the strategy.
The plan is for the doses, now kept in a central warehouse in Germany, to be sent to more than 60 regional vaccination centers within hours of approval of the substance by the responsible authorities.
This may occur before the end of the year, depending on the results of clinical trials, which are now in the final stages, already under evaluation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The first people to be immunized would be health professionals, the elderly, the vulnerable, police and people who live in overcrowded conditions, according to lists being drawn up by Germany’s regional governments. The general public would not receive the vaccine until months later.
The preparations contrast with the situation in the United States, where governors have expressed concerns about the White House’s lack of answers to critical questions, such as how many doses each region will receive, how they will be distributed and who would be vaccinated initially.
BioNTech automatic pipetting equipment – Photo: Disclosure / BioNTech
One reason why Germany is more advanced is the fact that the country is home to BioNTech, one of the pioneers in the search for a vaccine against covid-19. The laboratory is working in partnership with the American company Pfizer and hopes to send its vaccine for approval in November.
BioNTech is also working with German regional health authorities to establish vaccination centers across the country and have mobile teams to immunize people living in nursing homes or in remote rural areas, according to government and company officials.
The company will also train medical professionals on how to store and administer the vaccine.
Together with the German authorities, the company chose to store the doses that are already being produced in a secret warehouse. One of the reasons that motivated the choice is that this type of installation is easier to protect and monitor, according to an official from the Ministry of Health.
Pfizer and BioNTech are already producing millions of doses of the vaccine that will be delivered in signed contracts even before development is completed. The German company says it is able to supply vaccines to the country’s authorities within hours of approval.
But only a limited quantity can be delivered at this early stage. Therefore, the government is rushing to write rules that regulate who will be immunized first.
The European Union (EU) has purchased 200 million doses of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine. Part of them will go to Germany, which has also signed a bilateral agreement with pharmaceutical companies to receive another 30 million extra doses.
German government officials say it will take seven months to vaccinate all Germans who want to be immunized against covid-19.
Just over 50% of the population would be willing to receive a vaccine, according to a study by the Hamburg Health Economics Center. The conclusions are similar to the results of other research in European countries.
“People who are opposed to vaccination are mainly those who feel that their health is not threatened by the coronavirus and those who do not trust the government’s information policy,” said the head of the institute, Jonas Schreyögg.