BERLIN (Reuters) – German Health Minister Jens Spahn urged the country to be patient during the long road out of the coronavirus pandemic as he responded on Saturday to criticism over the slow pace of a vaccine rollout.
Germany, in strict lockdown to curb a second wave, was on track to vaccinate everyone who wants it by the end of the year, or earlier if more vaccines are approved, he said.
“Things are improving step by step, now more than 500,000 people have had the vaccine,” Spahn told an online question and answer webinar with doctors.
Germany will have some 12 million doses from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer by the end of March, he said, adding that would increase in the second and third quarters.
“If the approvals we expect come through for vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, CureVac or Johnson & Johnson, then in the summer Germany will be able to offer everyone a vaccine,” he said, reiterating previous predictions.
“We need patience. We have started the road out of this but a long path lies ahead,” he added.
The media and some healthcare professionals have criticised the government for delays in the vaccine rollout compared with other countries, including Britain and Israel, and for ordering too few doses.
Ifo economic institute President Clemens Fuest said the government should do more.
“The state should help manufacturers build up capacity quickly by accelerating approvals but also financially,” he said. “It should offer pharmaceutical firms bonuses for delivering the vaccine faster. Or take on guarantees.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel also addressed the concerns in her weekly podcast, saying the pace of vaccinations would increase.
Germany recorded 24,694 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 1.89 million, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The death toll is almost 40,000.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mike Harrison)