BERLIN (Reuters) – Berlin is racing to open six mass vaccination centres capable of handling up to 4,000 people per day by mid-December, the project coordinator told Reuters on Thursday, as the city waits for authorities to approve the first vaccines.
An empty trade fair hall, two airport terminals, a concert arena, a velodrome and an ice rink will be turned into six vaccination centres where it plans to administer up to 900,000 shots against the coronavirus in the first three months.
Albrecht Broemme said plans envisage 3,000 to 4,000 people per day being ferried through each centre in the same way as shoppers are guided through IKEA stores in one direction.
“The biggest challenge will be succeeding in getting the right people at the right time at the right vaccination centre,” Broemme said on the sidelines of a fire drill at the city’s makeshift COVID-19 hospital in a trade fair hall.
Germany appears to be the furthest ahead of European nations in its planning for the daunting logistical and administrative challenge that could be just a few weeks away if the first vaccines gain approval.
Europe’s drug watchdog expects to receive the first application for conditional marketing approval for a COVID-19 vaccine “in the coming days”, it said on Thursday, the latest step towards making a shot available outside the United States. [L1N2IC0PC]
Broemme said Berlin is working on the assumption that around 80% of its doses in the first instance will come from Pfizer/BioNTech with the remaining 20% of the doses from AstraZeneca.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germany has secured around 300 million vaccine doses. Other German states have said vaccination centres will be ready from mid-December and mobile teams will inoculate the most vulnerable.
Elsewhere in Europe, preparations appear mixed.
In Spain, the government aims to vaccinate a substantial part of its population in the first half of 2021 and has opted to use trucks rather than centres to distribute the shots.
Italy expects to have vaccinated most Italians by next September and is due to set out detailed plans on Dec. 2. France has said it could start administering shots as soon as the end of the year and will unveil its strategy next week.
Britain plans to roll out vaccines using a mixture of centres and doctors’ practices and is aiming to have enough shots to have some sort of normality after Easter.
In contrast, Hungary and Bulgaria are not expecting to receive their first shipments until Spring.
Berlin’s vaccination centres will be open seven days a week and on public holidays from 0900 to 1900, Broemme said, with the aim of completing the first phase within three months. After that people will get shots at doctors’ practices and pharmacies.
Those aged over 75 and healthcare workers are expected to be first-in-line, the city’s health senator said last week.
One challenge will be finding enough staff to operate the centres, which will need medical professionals, stewards and security guards. EasyJet has offered some of its first-aid trained staff, a spokesman said.
Broemme expects each person to spend around one hour in the centre. People will be monitored for side effects for around 30 minutes after receiving a shot amid strict social-distancing and hygiene standards.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Sarah Young in London, Emilio Paradi in Milan, Emma Pinedo Gonzalez in Madrid, Matthias Blamont in Paris, Krisztina Than in Budapest, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia)