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Germany’s Vaccination Campaign: The Race for Herd Immunity

  • July 02, 2021

The rapidly climbing vaccination rate has flip-flopped the situation in medical practices and vaccination centers. Whereas they used to complain of a shortage of doses, now, they sometimes have trouble finding enough patients. In Bremen, for example, every 10th appointment for a first vaccine dose is either being cancelled or patients simply aren’t showing up, says Lukas Fuhrmann, the health spokesman from Bremen. It is rare, he says, for appointments for a second dose to be missed. “Slowly, it’s becoming difficult to find people who aren’t yet vaccinated.”

Almost all those who want to be vaccinated have received at least their first jab.

Which means that Germany’s vaccination campaign is now entering a new phase. Almost all those who want to be vaccinated have received at least their first jab. Now, the focus is on vaccinating those people who are still hesitant or who find the registration process to be too complicated. And those who may not be aware of the vaccination campaign. “We want to make it as easy as possible – with mobile vaccination centers, for example, or temporary vaccine centers in structurally disadvantaged urban districts,” says Fuhrmann. In such neighborhoods, he adds, it’s often not possible to reach people through standard channels like newspapers or radio. “We are working with cultural associations and religious communities to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

It remains unclear what percentage of the German population will ultimately be vaccinated. Children below the age of 12, who cannot be vaccinated, make up 11 percent of the populace. It still hasn’t been determined if vaccinating this age group even makes sense from a medical perspective. Then there are the anti-vaxxers, who make up between 13 and 20 percent of the population, depending on the survey. That means that the vaccination rate could end up being lower than 70 percent, below the level necessary for herd immunity. According to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s center for disease control, the new, highly contagious virus variants mean that herd immunity can only be reached if 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.

There will, though, be plenty of vaccine doses around this fall. An additional 220 million doses have been ordered for delivery by the end of the year, with another 204 million coming in 2022. Some of that will be necessary for booster shots. The rest, though, will likely be sent onward to other countries.

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