Germans will be ‘vaccinated, cured or dead’ by spring, warns health minister

BERLIN – Germans will be “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the end of this winter, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday as he injected additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer into the arms of a third of the people in the country who have not yet been vaccinated.

In the current fourth wave of the pandemic, Germany is recording a record number of COVID-19 cases, which is increasingly stressing the intensive care units of hospitals – with unvaccinated patients being significantly more likely to be life-threatening.

“By the end of this winter, pretty much everyone in Germany will – as sometimes cynically put it – be vaccinated, cured or dead,” said Spahn to a hastily arranged person press conference, in its harshest warning to date of the risks of opposing vaccinations.

“But it really is like that: With the very contagious Delta variant, it is very, very likely … that anyone who is not vaccinated will be infected in the next few months and will not have any protection.

“In this respect, immunity is always achieved, the only question is whether it is through vaccination or infection. And we clearly recommend vaccination.”

Spahn annoyed doctors last week when he rationed scarce supplies of the vaccine from the Mainz startup BioNTech, which, thanks to its “Made in Germany” status, advocates, while the dosage distribution of the US biotech company Moderna has no limits.

In an abrupt U-turn, he announced Monday that he would be releasing an additional six million doses of the BioNTech shot, while assuring that Moderna was also “a good, safe and very effective vaccine”.

“Many doctors say BioNTech is the Mercedes of vaccines and Moderna is the Rolls-Royce,” said Spahn.

The Robert Koch Institute reported a record rate of 387 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week on Monday, with parts of southern and eastern Germany shaded purple on its color-coded map – indicating crisis numbers of more than 1,000 weekly cases per 100,000 people .

More than 99,000 people have died of the disease in Germany.

Only 67.5 percent of Germans are fully vaccinated, a figure that has largely exposed the rest of the population to infection with the extremely contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. RKI boss Lothar Wieler said last week: “We are no longer talking about isolated outbreaks – all of Germany is a big outbreak. This is a national emergency.”

Spahn rejected allegations that his ministry had been hoarding BioNTech cans. “Everything we have … will of course be delivered. We’re not holding anything back, as I read over the weekend, ”he said.

By the end of the year, 50 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be available in Germany – 24 million from BioNTech and the remaining 26 million from Moderna.

“So if we assume that we want to have 25 to 30 million booster vaccinations by the end of the year, then a large part of these vaccinations can be done with BioNTech on request,” said Spahn, to reassure the Germans who prefer the BioNTech intake although data shows it is no more effective than Moderna.

“In terms of safety, they are equivalent in terms of the very rare side effects, which are less than 10 cases per 100,000,” said Klaus Cichutek, head of the German vaccination authority Paul Ehrlich Institute, about the two vaccines.

“Both vaccines were found to be 90 percent or more effective,” he added.

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