Merkel aims for 10m shots per week under revamp of struggling vaccine drive

Scientists concerned Germans not taking Oxford drug for ‘psychological’ reasons

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to speed up the country’s vaccine drive towards a goal of delivering 10 million shots per week.

The pledge comes as the head of Germany’s vaccine commission admitted that initial concern about a lack of safety data on use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine in older groups may have contributed to scepticism about the drug among Germans.

Authorities are struggling to convince the population that the AstraZeneca shot is effective despite millions of doses on order.

This week a vaccination centre set to deliver AstraZeneca doses was pictured virtually empty.

Prof Thomas Merten from Germany’s Standing Commission on Vaccination suggested there may be a “psychological problem” hindering take-up of the shot.

“It’s unfortunately true at the moment but we are working quite hard on this point and trying to convince people to accept the vaccine and build up the trust in the vaccine,” he told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday.

“As you may know this is some kind of psychological problem and it will take some time to achieve this goal.”

He agreed that the committee’s concern over a lack of safety data among older groups may have contributed to the problem.

There was also a perception that the Pfizer vaccine was “better”, he said.

“The vaccines are equally good for individual protection and for fighting the pandemic,” Prof Merten said.

EU leaders will discuss the bloc’s vaccine drive later on Thursday.

They are expected to agree that the pandemic remains “serious” and new variants pose additional challenges.

“We must therefore uphold tight restrictions while stepping up efforts to accelerate the provision of vaccines,” a draft leaders’ statement said.

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of AstraZeneca's vaccine to be administered to German police officers. AP
A pharmacist prepares a syringe of AstraZeneca's vaccine to be administered to German police officers. AP

Ahead of the meeting, Ms Merkel pledged to ramp up her country’s inoculation campaign to hit 10 million vaccinations per week.

“The vaccination campaign will now accelerate more and more,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

“We are talking at the moment about how logistically it will be possible to vaccinate 7.5 million to 9.5 million a week.”

Germany has so far delivered 6.62 doses per 100,000 people, or about 5.4 million doses, according to Our World in Data.

The UK has delivered 27.86 doses per 100,000 people, about 19 million doses in total, according to government data.

Published: February 25, 2021 06:12 PM

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