German minister sees COVID-19 vaccine shortage well into April

by Reuters
Thursday, 28 January 2021 16:22 GMT

* Health minister: vaccine shortages to last at least 10 weeks

* Interior ministry preparing entry ban for risk countries

* 7-day incidence falls below 100 cases/100,000 people (Adds timing of summit)

BERLIN, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Germany faces a shortage of coronavirus shots well into April, its health minister said on Thursday, and called for a summit with the country's state leaders to discuss vaccinations as the government faced fresh criticism over the pace of the roll-out.

Several people close to the talks told Reuters that the meeting will take place on Monday.

"We will still have at least 10 tough weeks with a shortage of vaccine," Jens Spahn said in a Tweet, adding the meeting should focus on how Europe gets its fair share of shots and what can be done to support the process.

Germany, like the rest of the European Union, is scrambling to obtain shots as the West's biggest drugmakers slow deliveries to the bloc due to production problems.

Germany's top-selling Bild newspaper described the problem of procuring enough vaccines as a "scandal".

Meanwhile, popular approval of the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis has dropped to 49%, its lowest since the start of the pandemic, a poll for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung showed.

Spahn said he wanted to invite pharmaceutical companies and vaccine manufacturers to a meeting to discuss the way forward, adding he recognised vaccine production was complex and production could not be built up in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, Spahn supported European Union proposals to set up a register of vaccine exports, as tensions grow with AstraZeneca and Pfizer over sudden supply cuts just a month after the EU started vaccinating citizens.

Germany reported 17,553 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 2,178,828, and another 941 deaths. The seven-day incidence rate fell under 100 cases per 100,000 for the first time since the end of October. The government wants it to drop below 50.

Spahn has said that if cases continue to fall, schools and nurseries should be the first to reopen after a lockdown currently due to last until Feb. 14.

Germany is also preparing entry restrictions for travellers from Britain, Brazil and South Africa, the interior ministry said, and hopes to decide by Friday as concerns mount about more contagious variants.

"We have to get ahead of the situation," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Caroline Copley and Andreas Rinke; Editing by Thomas Seythal, Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood)

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