Nationwide best quota: Why Bremen is great when it comes to vaccination


Status: 03.11.2021 10:27 a.m.

Almost 80 percent of all Bremen residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. In no other federal state is the rate so high. How does Bremen do it?

By Robert Otto-Moog, Radio Bremen

Traffic builds up on the goat market in the Steintor district of Bremen. Where people usually queue up for fruit, flowers or cheese, they are now waiting for an injection. 140 Bremen residents had themselves vaccinated against Corona in the vaccination mobile of the German Red Cross (DRK) on this autumn day, and a few hours later there will be significantly more than 200.

A week after the last of around 470,000 syringes was administered in what was once the largest vaccination center in Germany at the Bremen Exhibition Center, vaccination continues almost non-stop in the city-state. On average, more than 1,000 doses were administered every working day – not counting the doctors in private practice. After all, the two-city state wants to achieve the 80 percent vaccination quota for second vaccinations in the coming weeks.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 78.4 percent of all people in the state of Bremen are now fully vaccinated – the absolute top figure nationwide. Behind are the Saarland (73.2), Hamburg (72.1) and Schleswig-Holstein (71.6). The national average is 66.8.

How did little Bremen of all things manage to vaccinate so many more of its residents than anyone else?

Poverty and high proportion of migrants

“It seems to be a combination of several factors,” says Hajo Zeeb from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology. Above all, however, it was important that Bremen quickly recognized that it was all about the right approach in structurally weak districts. “In addition to the establishment and operation of well-functioning vaccination centers.”

Directly to the people by vaccination mobile.

Image: radio brake

In fact, Bremen investigated early on in which parts of the city a particularly high number of infections occurred – according to the Senate, it was the first major city in Germany. The result: where there is great poverty and the proportion of migrants, a particularly high number of people became infected. There are numerous such quarters in Bremen and Bremerhaven. And it is precisely there that the skepticism towards the state and its authorities is often particularly great.

“We have adjusted to that,” says Bremen’s Senator for Health Claudia Bernhard. “We mainly went to precisely these parts of the city and vaccinated there. That was definitely one of our success factors,” said the left-wing politician. In addition, there is the close cooperation between authorities, aid organizations and those responsible on site: neighborhood management, local offices, associations, religious communities, neighborhood initiatives.

“We are where the people are”

“Those responsible on site are driving this forward,” says Jörg Rolfs, who is responsible for logistics at the DRK Bremen. And thus also for the two DRK vaccination trucks. The vehicles are on the road almost every day and vaccinate people practically on their doorstep. There are around 200 each time, whether in front of the Weser Stadium, on the Freimarkt or in front of the high-rise buildings in Osterholz-Tenever. “We are where the people are,” says Rolfs.

The Steintor is a stone’s throw away from the Bremen red light district. In the other direction it goes to an autonomous youth center. The audience here is very mixed, people are standing in line for the first or second vaccination, some also for the booster vaccination. Many come purposefully, others spontaneously, shopping bags still in hand. Walk-in customers are not uncommon.

“We are where the people are,” says Jörg Rolfs from the DRK.

Image: radio brake

In addition to the two trucks that the DRK planned on its own initiative in April, there is also a vaccination bus in Bremen and Bremerhaven. At peak times, up to 20 mobile teams were also on duty at the same time. According to the health department, around 100,000 vaccine doses were administered on the move. “Vaccination mobiles are one of the most important components of a successful vaccination campaign like the one in Bremen,” says epidemiologist Zeeb. Even after the end of the large vaccination center, local and mobile options should remain.

Concept of “short distances”

In the search for the Bremen recipe for success, the image of “short distances” appears again and again – both proverbially and literally. “It was made easy for the people of Bremen to get vaccinated,” says virologist Andreas Dotzauer from the University of Bremen. And not only in comparison to its sprawled neighbor Lower Saxony “The city is clear,” says Dotzauer. “The two other city-states Hamburg and Berlin are dealing with completely different sizes.”

Senator Bernhard nevertheless believes that the Bremen model would have worked elsewhere, at least in part. “Many of our decisions could have been made in other countries or municipalities,” she says. Addressing people directly, for example. Health is a social question. “Health offers, education, information have to go where the people are and not just in the districts or areas where there are already many medical practices and good access to information and care,” she says.

The employees of the Bremen DRK will continue in any case, not just in the Steintor. The helpers are currently taking care of making the trucks winter-proof. After all, with an 80 percent vaccination quota, it doesn’t have to end. “It won’t fail because of us,” says DRK man Rolfs.


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