Debate about vaccination centers: countries irritated by Spahn’s move



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Status: 01.11.2021 2:39 p.m.

Health Minister Spahn calls for the federal states to reopen vaccination centers in order to make faster progress with booster vaccinations. Upon request from tagesschau.de Several countries are surprised or confused.

By Patrick Gensing and Carla Reveland, tagesschau.de

In view of the further sharp rise in the corona numbers, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn is calling on the federal states to reopen their vaccination centers. The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach also thinks the centers should start operating again.

But is it even possible at short notice to simply reactivate the vaccination centers that were closed in late summer? A former team leader at a vaccination center in a major German city said in an interview with tagesschau.de, he thinks it is very difficult to reopen the vaccination centers in the short term. Many former employees have come from the event industry or from the catering industry – and have long since returned to their professions. In addition, the infrastructure in many centers would first have to be rebuilt and new employees trained. In smaller cities there were also no corresponding halls that could be used.

In addition, there are no specific plans in the federal states to reopen the vaccination centers. Upon request from tagesschau.de the Ministry of Social Affairs in Saxony said that it was closely monitored whether there were any gaps in the vaccination offer. A spokesman referred to “numerous different vaccination options,” including 30 mobile teams that are currently underutilized. Here, “the municipalities and districts are also asked, they have to request them”.

Berlin still has vaccination centers

In Berlin, “four corona vaccination centers have been closed successively” over the past few months, said a spokeswoman for the Senate Department for Health. Two vaccination centers are therefore still open. Senator Dilek Kalayci emphasized on the ntv broadcaster that these centers are important, but that the medical practices also have to vaccinate more.

The Ministry of Health of Schleswig-Holstein announced that there are “already a large number of temporary vaccination centers across the country in many changing locations” – including in former vaccination centers.

In Bremen, although the large vaccination centers have been closed, said a spokesman for the health authority, five vaccination centers – so-called mini vaccination centers – are operated there, plus there are more than 20 mobile teams as well as three vaccination vehicles and vaccination buses. A reopening of the large vaccination centers is “currently not necessary”. NRW also announced: The vaccination centers will “no longer exist in their old form”.

Thuringia expects resolutions

Thuringia has not even closed most of the vaccination centers. Health Minister Heike Werner declared at the end of September: “Closing large-scale vaccination sites now would be exactly the wrong signal. If we want to get through autumn and winter safely, then the following applies: Every vaccination counts. That is why we make use of the opportunity to continue these structures.”

Upon request from tagesschau.de said the responsible ministry in Erfurt, 27 of the 29 centers are still in operation. For everything else, nationwide regulations would have to be made, Thuringia is expecting corresponding resolutions from the health ministers’ conference at the end of the week.

Lower Saxony extremely “irritated”

Criticism of Spahn’s suggestion came from Lower Saxony: Health Minister Daniela Behrens said the opposite tagesschau.de: “I find the latest, uncoordinated proposals of the executive Federal Minister of Health to reopen the inpatient vaccination centers extremely irritating.”

It was Spahn who stopped financing the vaccination centers and delivering vaccines to the countries on September 30th. Lower Saxony had “advocated at an early stage and very vehemently that there could be a public supplement to the vaccinations in the regular system of doctors even after the vaccination centers had been closed”. For this purpose, mobile vaccination teams have been set up in all districts and urban districts.

Baden Württemberg is “surprised”

The responsible ministry in Baden-Wuerttemberg also reacted “surprised” to Spahn’s initiative, since “the vaccination centers, which were not fully used at any time, were only closed a few weeks ago”. The ministry “once again urgently appealed to the commitment of the medical profession” to fulfill its supply mandate – and announced that it might set up further vaccination teams.

In order to achieve the goal of quickly reaching more people for the initial and booster vaccination, “all decentralized mobile and pop-up offers are now the right means. We would need a much longer lead time for the reopening of vaccination centers”.

Decision to close

The Conference of Health Ministers (GMK) had in agreement with the Federal Minister of Health decided that “after community protection (‘herd immunity’) has been achieved, it will be” the primary task of the resident doctors and company doctors to carry out the necessary booster vaccinations “. This makes it possible “to reduce or close the vaccination centers in their current number and capacity no later than September 30, 2021”.

Upon request from tagesschau.de the Federal Ministry of Health said that the federal government has so far paid out around 1.7 billion euros to the federal states to partially finance the vaccination centers and the mobile vaccination teams. When asked whether the closure of the vaccination centers was a mistake, the ministry said that Jens Spahn had “made it clear that it is now a matter of getting the centers ready to go so that booster vaccinations are possible across the board”. The details would certainly be discussed at the health ministers’ conference in Lindau this week.

Ten days ago 1.35 million refreshments were inoculated, now – as of October 31 – there are around two million.


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