“We are ready”: Germany is only waiting for the European green light to vaccinate

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Posts and straps already delimit the queues that will eventually form at the entrance of Germany’s largest Covid-19 vaccination center, in Hamburg (north).

And in the 64 miniature doctor’s offices, the brand new auscultation tables are waiting for D-Day.

This center is ready to begin a vast campaign of injections while the European Medicines Agency is due to render its decision on Monday on a marketing authorization for the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine.

If the European Union gives the green light, the German authorities, particularly worried about the second epidemic wave which has swept the country, want to go quickly: the first vaccinations are expected from December 27.

“We are ready. The route has been tested (…) The only thing we are still missing is the vaccine, ”said the head of social and health issues for the city of Hamburg, Melanie Leonhard, during a visit with the press .

The second largest city in Germany, with nearly two million inhabitants, has seen the big picture for this operation called “Hamburg vaccine”.

7000 injections

In the huge congress center, two pavilions with a total area of ​​11,000 m2 are reserved for the administration of the product, which will be done as everywhere in Germany on a voluntary basis.

A total of 7,000 daily injections can be performed there, supervised by six medical directors surrounded by other doctors and nursing staff.

The center of Hamburg is one of more than 400 erected throughout Germany for this vaccination campaign which is organized in record time, less than a year after the appearance of the first cases of the new coronavirus in Europe.

Each candidate for injection will have to complete a one-hour journey, going from a registration counter to one of the vaccination booths before stopping in a rest and pharmacovigilance area.

Nothing has been left to chance: translators-interpreters will be present and a shortened queue is provided for people with reduced mobility.

“Build trust”

In order to minimize the risk of contamination, the temperature of visitors will be raised before entering the center, wearing a mask will be compulsory, as will the maintenance of a distance of 1.50 m.

With this vaccination course, “we want to arouse the confidence of the population (…) to signal that it is serious and really professional”, explains Walter Plassmann, director of the Hamburg federation of doctors, which manages the center.

Each of the cabins “looks like the examination room” of a general practitioner, adds Melanie Leonhard.

In Germany as in other European countries, a certain mistrust with regard to the vaccine has emerged and is fueled in particular by conspiratorial theses disseminated on the internet.

White hoodie stamped “Hamburg vaccine”, Dirk Heinrich is one of the 1400 doctors who volunteered to vaccinate Hamburgers.

“In my office, I saw patients with (Covid-19) pass and unfortunately some died,” said this ENT doctor. “It’s a real disaster and the vaccine is the only chance to put an end to it,” he explains.

In Hamburg, the authorities do not hide their concern about the conservation of vaccine doses.

For the product from the German BioNTech and American laboratories Pfizer – the first to receive the European green light – very low temperatures of -70 ° to -80 ° will be required.

“The conditions for handling the vaccine are very, very delicate”, acknowledges Mr. Plassmann. “And we have not yet been able to test” this essential element of logistics.

The health authorities also expect a rather slow start. The number of doses that will be delivered to Germany initially should not exceed 400,000.

It will therefore only be a few thousand doses that will be sent to Hamburg.

In the first weeks, only people with a high risk factor will therefore be offered the vaccine which also requires two injections.

Among them, those over 80 will not have to go to the vaccination center, but mobile teams will go directly to their homes and to retirement homes.

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