More clarity on the side of vaccine manufacturers, this is what the German federal and regional authorities obtained yesterday. Ten pharmaceutical companies, such as BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Curevac, as well as representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and the European Commission, participated in an exceptional digital summit around Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of sixteen Bundesländer.
The slowness of vaccination in the country is indeed causing debate as 1.9 million people received a first dose of vaccine and only 532,000 both needed. This corresponds to 2.8% of the German population, against 5% in Denmark – the best student in the EU -, 3% in Switzerland, but far from 13.9% in Great Britain and 54.7% in Israel.
The federal state in the hot seat
These delays contrast with the good preparation of Germany for this vast vaccination campaign. At the start, on December 27, the country had more than 400 vaccinodromes across the territory. The problem is that the vaccine doses quickly ran out. Even today, the regions, in charge of vaccination, accuse the federal state, responsible for the purchase and distribution of vaccines, for relying on the European Commission in terms of ordering vaccines. Consequence, without vaccine, difficult for the Bundesländer to give appointments to patients. Not to mention their own management issues. There are many testimonies of Germans not being able to get an appointment by phone.
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn has no regrets about these political choices. He recalled the efforts made in particular to allow the manufacturer BioNTech to open a second factory in Europe, in Hesse, at high speed. Production will begin there this month. The federal authorities, however, point to the responsibility of the manufacturers and did not hide their frustration after BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca reduced their deliveries to the European Union in January.
“Clarity has been made”
In this context of generalized frustration, manufacturers were therefore summoned yesterday to provide information on the state of their production and guarantees on their short and medium term deliveries. According to Angela Merkel, “clarity has been made” on this point. Germany will be able to offer all its citizens (apart from children) a vaccine by the end of the summer. And this, whether the vaccines developed by Curevac and Johnson & Johnson are authorized or not.
In fact, Berlin and Brussels have obtained confirmation of receiving the expected doses from BioNTech for the first quarter. The German manufacturer and its partner Pfizer will also be able to deliver 75 million additional vaccines in the second quarter. The Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca has also confirmed that it can deliver 40 million doses to the EU in the first quarter, or 9 million more than announced in recent days. However, far from the 80 million initially planned. Another good news is that the German laboratory Curevac has announced a partnership with the giant Bayer to accelerate its production by the end of the year.
The role of the German state in the production of vaccines has also been set, in particular by the Minister President of Bavaria. Markus Söder called yesterday for more action in this area. However, this proposal arouses reluctance in the pharmaceutical sector, which recalls that, even with more money, “vaccine production remains very complex”.