Major operation corona vaccinations

After months of everyday restrictions, a central solution for the Corona crisis is getting closer: Vaccinations should soon be possible gradually. What does that mean for organizers, doctors and citizens?

It is about an unprecedented major operation and the hope for the decisive weapon against the pandemic: Germany is preparing for the start of vaccinations against the corona virus, which are likely to start shortly after the turn of the year. The initial phase is particularly tricky, when many more people want to be vaccinated than there is a vaccine available.

In one fell swoop, the tense situation does not change. However, the state takes the prelude directly in hand to give a boost for vaccinations of many millions of citizens who are later to take over practices in the area. The specific organization is done on site.

How fast does it start?

It has not yet been determined when the first syringe can be used. The federal and state governments are aiming to be ready to go with important preparations by mid-December - even if it should take a few weeks longer. Mass vaccinations are not immediately possible anyway because only limited amounts of vaccine can be expected at first. "We have to get through the winter without being able to rely on the fact that we already have a large amount of vaccine available," explained Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).

In the first quarter of 2021, Germany could expect together seven million cans from the manufacturers Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna. However, two vaccinations are also planned at a certain interval. Significantly larger quantities could then be available in the third quarter - that is, in the summer.

Who will get the vaccine?

The federal government wants to procure centralized vaccine for Germany. Around 300 million cans have been secured so far via an EU-wide key and national agreements. The federal government is also paying for this, with 2.7 billion euros initially reserved in the 2021 budget. Vaccines are to be distributed via almost 30 delivery points in the federal states, from there to regional vaccination centers, for which halls, stadiums and hotels are currently being prepared.

There are practical reasons for this: some vaccines have to be cooled to minus 70 degrees, which is not possible in every practice and pharmacy. In centers with hundreds of vaccinations a day, vaccines can be used up in large quantities before they expire. Special safety precautions are possible.

Who should come first?

In the centers, priority should be given to certain groups when vaccinating more clearly than at the reception counters of medical practices, as Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said - especially in the case of emotional reactions when someone is turned away. Spahn wants to determine the order by ordinance, the direction is already becoming apparent.

According to a framework that the Bundestag has defined in a law, the Standing Vaccination Commission at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) presented a draft for a more precise recommendation. Countries and experts can still comment on this. The first to come should be older people over 80, nursing home residents and staff with the highest risk of infection in clinics and old people's homes, around 8.6 million people.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Centers will be set up in the federal states to bundle vaccinations in one region for the first few months. In Hesse, for example, at least 1000 vaccinations per day are targeted for each center, open seven days a week. In the Düsseldorf football arena, up to 2,400 vaccinations per day should be possible on two floors.

Extra staff is needed everywhere. Mobile teams that go to old people's homes, for example, are to be docked at centers. Spahn can imagine pragmatic solutions: If a team is on site, all residents could be vaccinated if they wish, even if their age group is formally not yet on.

How should vaccinations work?

Vaccination centers have their own concepts that range from arrival and departure to the design of the rooms. In order to avoid queues and jostling, appointments should generally be able to be booked online or by phone in advance.

For centers, experts usually recommend vaccination streets as one-way streets to guide patients from ward to ward - from the registration, where the vaccination authorization is checked and you can get an information sheet, to a zone where you can stay a little longer after the vaccination.

Waiting areas, rooms for doctor talks and the actual vaccination are also needed. The planners then see how long a normal cycle takes - in Husum in Schleswig-Holstein, for example, it is around 45 minutes.

What does the vaccination cost?

The vaccination and advice should be free of charge for all citizens. In the first phase with relatively few available doses, however, you have to prove your "entitlement to claim" - according to the vaccination sequence that then applies. In the case of old age, this should simply be possible with an identity card or passport, as a federal draft ordinance provides.

Employer certificates should do the same for staff in the health care system, in nursing and the "critical infrastructure" such as the police. When it comes to people with certain pre-existing conditions, they should have to present a medical certificate. If the doctor knows you, you should be able to order it by phone and have it sent to you.

How do general practitioners come into play when it comes to vaccination?

After the start in central facilities, the corona vaccinations should continue decentrally - as practices are currently doing again with more than 20 million flu vaccinations. When it can be switched is open, maybe in summer. The prerequisite for this are more vaccines for mass use that can normally be stored in pharmacies and practices.

How the willingness to vaccinate develops after first impressions must then be shown. The federal government is planning information campaigns for vaccinations and has declared that it wants to ensure broad trust. This includes the repeated promise: It is about a vaccination offer, not an obligation to vaccinate. Spahn gave his word on it in the Bundestag.

How quickly can vaccinations stop the pandemic?

Politicians and experts are reluctant to make predictions. In the midst of ongoing corona restrictions, the approaching vaccinations are "light at the end of the tunnel," as Merkel said. The virus can be defeated step by step.

"But it won't be a matter of a few months, let's be realistic." RKI President Lothar Wieler called vaccinations the "decisive game changer" that could shorten the course of the pandemic by years - but Germany alone is not enough.

An expense of another five or six billion euros around vaccination is definitely worth it, Spahn made clear. The November aid for companies alone cost 15 billion euros.