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Coronavirus: German states report vaccine shortage

December 30, 2020

Days after Germany began its COVID vaccination drive, Berlin and two other states said they were facing long delays. But the federal Health Ministry said the next delivery would come "as originally planned."

Coronavirus vaccine dose
Tens of thousands of vaccine doses may not be deliveredImage: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

Three German states, including Berlin, have been forced to suspend their coronavirus vaccine campaigns for at least a week owing to shortages in doses, German media reported Wednesday. The news comes barely four days after the first vaccine was administered in Germany.

"We have received word from the federal Health Ministry that the delivery of vaccines will not take place in the first week of 2021," the city-state of Berlin's Health Minister Dilek Kalayci told the DPA news agency. The vaccine program is expected to continue on January 11 at the earliest.

An order of around 30,000 doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine due to arrive by January 4 was canceled, according to several German media outlets. The reasons for the cancellation were not immediately clear. The BioNTech pharma company, which played a key role in developing the product, is based in the German city of Mainz.

Delivery cancelation 'incomprehensible'

Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml announced that Germany's largest state would also have to wait until later in January for vaccine doses that had been promised. 

"It is incomprehensible how, with infection rates so high, a complete delivery can simply be canceled," Huml said. "The confirmed doses were already being planned for our vaccine centers."

The state of Brandenburg, which borders and surrounds Berlin, wrote on Twitter that it, too, was affected by the delay.

The Health Ministry confirmed that some 20,000 coronavirus vaccine doses had been planned for the first week of January; now, there would be none.

Delivery expected on January 8

Following the backlash, the German Health Ministry sought to clarify that the doses were still arriving and that the delivery date had been brought forward a little.

"We have agreed with BioNTech that the next vaccine delivery of 670,000 doses — as originally planned — will in fact be delivered next week, on January 8," the ministry wrote on Twitter, as opposed to January 11. It is unclear what this means for doses that may be missing before this date.

The latest announcement led to disgruntled responses from the states. The head of the Bavarian coronavirus taskforce said, "For a professional planning we need reliable information as early as possible about vaccine deliveries."

Berlin's Health Minister Kalayci told German broadcaster RBB: "I imagined the beginning of vaccinations would be different — that it would be quicker."

Germany's number of coronavirus cases and death toll set new records on Wednesday, with over 1,000 deaths for the first time. Authorities say vaccines are more necessary than ever as case numbers continue to rise.

ed/dj (AFP, dpa)