Health Minister Jens Spahn rejected criticism that in Germany vaccinations against Covid-19 were not happening fast enough and that there were not enough doses available.
In an interview with the platform Bild Live on Tuesday, Spahn defended the joint European approach taken in purchasing the vaccine.
“There is a shortage for everyone,” he said, adding that Germany had ordered a lot of the vaccines and in the beginning supplies where tight.
Germany expects to receive more than 130 million vaccine doses from the manufacturers BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna. “Those alone would be enough next year to offer vaccination to everyone who wants to be vaccinated.”
Since the vaccination campaign started on Sunday, 41,962 people have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control.
Spahn stressed that Germany had made a conscious decision to “go the European way” in procuring the vaccine. This also precluded re-negotiating with the manufacturers bilaterally.
But Germany was buying all the doses that other countries were not taking from their EU quota, Spahn said. Also, he half expected to be criticized a few months down the road for having obtained too much vaccine.
The debate on whether vaccinated persons should be granted certain privileges, such as access to restaurants, was “absolutely right and important,” Spahn said. He stressed there was a difference between actions by the state and public services and the private sector, but admitted that he himself was torn on the issue.
As it was still unclear whether vaccinated persons could infect others, he advocated holding off on decisions in that area.
In the public sector and for example in hospitals, town halls or public transport, no distinction should be made in his view between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, Spahn said.
He also warned Germany to expect the country’s lockdown to be extended beyond its current end date of January 10.
In containing the pandemic, Germany is “far from where we need to be,” he told broadcaster ARD’s programme Tagesthemen. Therefore, after January 10, “there will undoubtedly be measures.”
Germany enacted sweeping closures and restrictions across the country in mid-December, tightening a partial lockdown initiated in early November that failed to reverse the country’s rising trend in infections.
The tougher lockdown is to stay in place until January 10 at the earliest, following an agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the nation’s 16 states.
All but essential shops have been forced to close and schoolchildren have largely returned to remote learning.
An existing limit on group gatherings remains, with a maximum of five people from two households allowed to meet.