A 101-year-old woman in a nursing home in Saxony-Anhalt has become one of Germany's first people to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
BioNTech-Pfizer vaccinations kicked off in the state of Saxony-Anhalt on Saturday, a day before Germany officially launches its coronavirus vaccination campaign.
In Halberstadt, 101-year-old Edith Kwoizalla was the first resident of the town's Krueger center for senior citizens to receive the jab. Forty residents and 10 staff members at the center were reportedly vaccinated.
"For us, every day counts," Immo Kramer, a vaccination center manager in the region, told German broadcaster MDR.
Germany begins vaccination rollout
On Saturday, tens of thousands of vaccine doses were delivered to regional health authorities, who distributed them to local vaccination centers. German health authorities have said residents of nursing homes, seniors over the age of 80 and health care workers will be the first to be vaccinated.
"This vaccine is the essential key to defeating the pandemic. It is the key that will allow us to take back our lives," Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a press conference.
"We want to vaccinate so many people that the virus no longer has a chance, in Germany and in Europe," he said. Every additional vaccination meant fewer infections and fewer deaths, he added.
"Those who participate save lives…This vaccine is the decisive key to defeating this pandemic. It is the key to getting our lives back," he said.
Spahn also appealed to young people in German to reduce social contact to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Combating the virus "will be a long-term task," he warned. But "fall, winter and [next year's] Christmas should not be marked by this pandemic," he said.
Spahn said he 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 of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine are expected.
Defending the joint EU approach to approving the vaccine, Spahn said: "We did not want to go it alone nationally with an emergency approval. We wanted to and will continue to stand together in Europe, also and especially in this crisis."
According to the latest figures released on Saturday by Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country has registered 14,455 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, with 240 additional deaths. This brings the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic to 29,422.
The German health authority said, however, that it had not received all the data from the regions because of the Christmas vacations.
mvb/aw (dpa, AFP)