BERLIN – Dr. Peter Weitkamp posted an ad in eBay’s classifieds last week, offering meetings for the AstraZeneca vaccine – “free / as a gift” – to anyone over the age of 60. Many of his patients did not want this, as the German government spent several months testing the vaccine.
But within a day, his office in Kirchlengern, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was flooded with calls from people asking for the remaining 80 to 90 doses, including some who offered to drive outside the country. Another family doctor received a similar response after the appointment ride through a vaccination center in the AstraZenec food management parking lot shot at her which her patients refused.
The response to the doctors was proof that a lot of Germans are ready, even eager, to dose AstraZenec. A few days later, the German government apparently agreed and eased previous restrictions that limited the AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups due to concerns about rare but dangerous blood clots.
For months, the German vaccine program developed at a frustratingly slow pace and, at times, seemed more focused on preventing people from receiving doses than on encouraging them to shoot.
But now it seems that Germany has entered a new phase of recovery, which they hope for more. Daily rates of new infections have been falling steadily since April 21, and the number of vaccines in the country has risen rapidly over the past months. On April 28 alone, the country fired more than a million shots. More than 30 percent of the population has now received the initial injection.
“We seem to have broken the third wave,” Jans Spahn, the country’s health minister, told reporters on Friday, warning Germans not to get excited too quickly, even with the prospect of easing restrictions. “Now the thing is to stick it together for the next few weeks.”
Announcing the latest government policy change regarding AstraZenec, Mr. Spahn did not make a scientific argument, although anyone under the age of 60 who must have an injection will have to discuss the risks with a doctor. Instead, he stressed the need for flexibility and vaccination of more people.
At the same time, lawmakers are going through parliament through a law that would remove restrictions on coronavirus – from limiting the number of people who could meet; on the required proof of a negative quick purchase test; or forced quarantine after traveling abroad – for all who have been fully vaccinated.
With the prospect of having to spend the upcoming Ascension Day holiday at home next week, many Germans now have the opportunity to target a three-day weekend on Monday at the end of the month as an opportunity to finally travel again. Domestic holiday destinations in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein are scheduled to open on May 17, with hygiene rules and a rapid testing regime. Bavaria hopes to follow their example, along with Austria, a favorite destination of German tourists.
With talks on a vaccine to facilitate travel within the European Union and the German upper house of parliament moving towards exemption fully vaccinated from many restrictions – social distancing and wearing a mask will still be needed by all – many Germans who qualified for the AstraZeneca shot did not want to get one . This was in part because the rival two-dose vaccine BioNTech and Pfizer could be completed in just six weeks, while the recommended wait between injections for the AstraZeneca vaccine was 12 weeks.
“We will allow much more flexibility,” Mr Spahn told public television station WDR on Wednesday. “A lot of people want to get a second hit sooner, given the summer, and that’s possible with Astra.”
As part of the changes introduced on Thursday, Mr Spahn said Germany would allow a second dose of AstraZeneca after just four weeks, citing vaccine recommendations that allow for a flexible time frame. Study published in Lancet in February he said the vaccine provided more than 80 percent protection if a second injection was given after 12 weeks, while after less than six weeks it provided only 55 percent protection.
“Significant damage to the image of the vaccine against AstraZeneca, which is still unjustified, is also due to the uncertainty caused by the catastrophic communication between politicians and the public about its possible side effects,” said Ulrich Weigeldt, chairman of the German Association of Family Physicians.
German health authorities initially limited its use to younger adults because there was not enough information on how older adults reacted. He was then suspended for several weeks due to reports of cases of rare blood clots accompanied by low platelet counts, before being reintroduced to people over 60 years of age.
The uncertainty caused “back and forth” meant that many elderly patients who were entitled to AstraZeneca injections decided to wait a few weeks or go elsewhere to receive the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.
“Covid vaccines are still such a scarce commodity,” Mr. Weigeldt said. “We can’t afford to spend them.”
Although Germany opened AstraZeneca injections to anyone, the British vaccine regulator said that all adults under the age of 40 in that country should be offered alternatives to the company’s vaccine. They cited the same potential risk of rare blood clots accompanied by low platelet counts which led the Germans to set shooting limits.
In all, around 35 million people across the UK have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 22.6 million have received an injection of AstraZenec. Last month, Britain began reopening open-air retail outlets and restaurants, at a time when Germans were still arguing over the terms of the new lock. This included a night curfew to slow the swollen third wave of the virus and a cumbersome vaccine reporting system full of bureaucratic hurdles and an overloaded hotline.
“The British, of course, all laugh, ‘Oh, the Germans again,'” said Henrike Thalenhorst, who is finishing her residency in Dr. Weitkamp’s office, who offered AstraZeneca meetings on eBay. vaccinated Astrom and hit pubs. “
But while AstraZeneca’s ties to Britain have made it a local pride, for Germans, similar feelings surround the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, developed by a newly founded company based in the western city of Mainz and known to some as the “Mercedes-Benz vaccine. “
In a letter to the Neue Westfälische newspaper, one man described his decision to oppose AstraZeneca’s offer as a matter of national pride. “As a still unvaccinated 67-year-old German patriot,” wrote Lutz Schaal of Bielefeld, “I’m waiting for my BioNTech vaccination.”
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed to reporting from Berlin and Megan Specia from London.