Covid-19 vaccine in the vaccination center in Messe Berlin
Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa
The vaccination against Covid-19 in Germany is progressing slowly but surely.
Around a quarter of people in this country have now received at least one first dose, in some federal states it is even around 30 percent.
More than 650,000 people were vaccinated daily on average for the past seven days.
And in the coming weeks the numbers will continue to rise, possibly even faster than politicians had previously hoped.
»According to a model, more than half of those eligible for vaccination could have received at least one first Corona vaccination at the end of May.
In the middle of June three quarters could be vaccinated for the first time, «writes the Central Institute for Statutory Health Insurance (Zi) on Twitter.
By the end of July at the latest, all those eligible for vaccination could therefore be taken care of.
Willingness to vaccinate becomes a limiting factor
The positive prognosis is based, among other things, on the fact that more vaccine deliveries are coming, the general practitioners will also vaccinate and company doctors will also be involved from the week of June 7th at the latest.
At least 500,000 vaccination doses per week are intended for vaccination in companies.
Health Minister Spahn also wants to counteract a phenomenon that could soon reduce vaccination progress again: Not everyone who is entitled to a vaccination will take advantage of this opportunity immediately.
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"In a few weeks, we will probably have more vaccines than requests for appointments," Spahn said recently, according to "Welt am Sonntag". In other words: while the availability of vaccines is currently setting the pace, the willingness of the population to vaccinate could soon be decisive for the progress of the vaccination campaign - and thus central for the further course of the pandemic.
About 65 percent of adults in Germany are basically ready to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the representative Cosmo survey conducted by the University of Erfurt.
Only 16 percent do not want that under any circumstances.
That sounds good at first and promotes the debate about herd immunity.
However, experts now assume that between 75 and 80 percent of people would have to be protected from corona infection in order to decisively contain the spread of the virus.
There are several sticking points here.
A lack of children's vaccination lowers the vaccination quota
"Not included are children and adolescents," said study director and professor for health communication Cornelia Betsch of the Science Media Center (SMC) with a view to the number of people willing to be vaccinated.
As long as children and adolescents cannot be vaccinated, the vaccination rate required for herd immunity in the rest of the population is higher than the 75 to 80 percent mentioned.
The vaccines approved in the EU have so far been approved for people over the age of 16 at the earliest, and tests are ongoing with children over the age of 12.
There will probably be no vaccination for younger people in the summer.
If one assumes a 75 percent willingness to vaccinate in the group of those aged 12 and over who will soon be eligible for vaccination, it would only be around 65 percent of the entire population who could be vaccinated by autumn.
The under-12-year-olds would be too young to receive a vaccine against Covid-19 and would reduce the proportion of those vaccinated accordingly.
In addition, there are people who have already gone through an infection and thus have a certain protection.
So far, around 3.4 million Sars-CoV-2 infections have been detected in Germany.
Assuming that no one was infected twice, that corresponds to a share of around four percent.
However, neither a vaccination nor a previous infection protect against a corona infection with absolute certainty.
Experts therefore question whether it will ever be possible to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus - at least in the sense that people who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons are almost perfectly protected by the immunity of the rest of society ( Read more about this here).
To make matters worse, there are mutants that can sometimes bypass immune protection.
Not everyone who wants to be vaccinated can actually be vaccinated
"A high willingness to vaccinate alone is not enough to achieve herd immunity," concludes Betsch and also notes: "Even if the willingness to vaccinate were close to the herd immunity threshold, every high willingness to vaccinate does not automatically turn into a vaccination." Practical hurdles should therefore be largely be broken down and vaccinated be made as easy as possible.
This is where company vaccinations come into play.
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"Vaccinations will probably be very relevant at the workplace and in universities - and possibly schools too," said Betsch. She also advocates increasing the communication of information about the safety of vaccines. "It should not simply be asserted that the vaccine is safe, but anyone who wants to should be able to weigh up the risks." The decision that everyone in this pandemic has to make is: get sick or vaccinate. "The decision remains a risk assessment, neither of the two alternatives is absolutely safe."
For society as a whole, the benefit of vaccination always outweighs the balance.
"Herd immunity in the sense of a low incidence and targeted, local containment becomes more and more easily achievable as the vaccination progresses," Viola Priesemann, head of the Theory of Neural Systems Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, told the SMC.
Priesemann creates models for the course of the pandemic.
Hope for a more relaxed summer
In order to curb this significantly, it would therefore be sufficient if those who were previously willing to be vaccinated were actually immunized by autumn at the latest, maybe even by summer.
"We expect that in around 50 percent of vaccinated adults, testing, contact tracking and isolation, along with the AHA rules and avoiding major events, will be sufficient to keep the incidence low."
Then schools, restaurants and shops could reopen in summer, smaller celebrations and events with a hygiene concept would be possible.
This is also shown by the experience from Israel, where a good 60 percent have received an initial vaccination against Covid-19 so far.
One limitation, however, remains.
"All of this only applies as long as we don't get a potent escape variant," says Priesemann.
What is meant is a mutant of the coronavirus that can bypass immune protection completely or at least to a large extent and that spreads quickly.
"In order to reliably have a good summer, the spread of escape variants should be avoided or slowed down."
Priesemann also points out that with the seasonally falling number of cases in summer, the willingness to vaccinate could possibly also decrease - and warns of another wave of infections if it is loosened too quickly.
The trade-off between fighting the virus and personal freedom remains a balancing act for the time being.