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Germany considers break with EU on 2022 vaccine orders

April 1, 2021

German Health Minister Jens Spahn says the country must secure booster vaccines for 2022 — even if that means acting independently from the European Union.

 A medical worker (L) receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the University hospital of Essen in Essen
Germany is set to ramp up its vaccination program at family doctor practices across the countryImage: Tang Ying/Xinhua/picture alliance

Germany's health minister on Thursday said Berlin might seek to secure its own sources of vaccines beyond the initial planned round of vaccines in summer this year.

Jens Spahn said a knowledge gap on how long vaccines can protect people — as well as fears about mutations — meant Germany should be ready to act independently.

Why worry about 3rd and 4th doses now?

Spahn said there were no assurances that follow-up jabs wouldn't be necessary after the first one or two jabs.

Speaking as Germany prepares to ramp up its vaccination program at family doctor practices across the country, he said securing supplies for the next year was vital.

"We need to secure production capacity also for 3rd and 4th shots of COVID-19 vaccine," said Spahn. For now we don't know how long protection will last. Nobody has been immunized longer than 12 months according to the first clinical studies. And nobody know how long it will last — 12, 24 months, 5 years, 10 years."

"Nobody can rule out the need for repeat shots for immune reinforcement. Therefore we should secure capacity within the European Union framework — if not done urgently, then nationally."

A German family in lockdown

BioNTech 'most important building block'

Spahn said that, for the second quarter of the year, Germany was expecting to receive some 15 million doses of the vaccine from British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

The country is also expecting to receive about 40 million doses of the German-developed BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.

"This shows our most important building block in our vaccination campaign is actually BioNTech."

Of the 13.8 million doses vaccinated in Germany so far, 75% came from Mainz-based BioNTech, Spahn noted.

A further 6.4 million doses are expected to come from the US biotech company Moderna and 10.1 million doses are expected to come from US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson.

Spahn said he hoped the number of shots administered — with increased number of vaccines being delivered and the rolling out of immunizations at family practices — would rise considerably in the weeks to come.

Spahn said the vaccinations at doctors' practices would begin exclusively with BioNTech-Pfizer shots for the initial two weeks, with other vaccine types brought into the mix in subsequent weeks.

AstraZeneca comments cause cabinet rumpus

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, two days after authorities recommended use of the controversial jab only for people aged 60 and above.

Under-60s can still take AstraZeneca in consultation with their doctor and if they are fully aware of the potential risks associated with very rare blood clots.

Germany's 71-year-old Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he had no plans to take the AstraZeneca jab, after an appeal by Spahn for older members of the German Cabinet to set an example by having the vaccine.

"The answer to Jens Spahn's appeal is no," said Seehofer. The minister added that although he had nothing against AstraZeneca, he didn't want to be "patronized."

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.