The fridges are here but the shots are not.
“It would have been nice if I had at least 10 vaccines in my fridge. It cost me a lot of time and frustration and in the end these people who need it, they didn’t get vaccinated,” Katzenstein said.
The general practitioner says she has no idea how to get her vulnerable patients vaccinated after repeatedly lobbying for shots and repeatedly being turned down. “I am very concerned and I don’t know who to turn to.”
She voices the concerns of many – that Germany’s vaccination rollout is a bureaucratic nightmare with deadly consequences.
The country was applauded for its initial handling of the pandemic, thanks to widescale testing and its fast response to the outbreak. Despite a high number of reported cases, Germany’s Covid-19 mortality rate remains low.
But since it administered its first shot in December, Germany has only vaccinated around 6% of the population, with around 5 million first doses and 3 million second doses administered.
Part of the problem is that Germany has only been offering shots at specific vaccine centers and not at doctors’ offices – unlike in the United Kingdom, where local doctors have been vaccinating people for months, and where more than 30% of the population has received a first dose.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted to failings with the speed of the vaccine rollout and said Wednesday that doctors’ offices should be able to vaccinate patients by the end of March.
Katzenstein notes there are around 50,000 general practitioners’ offices in Germany and “it’s a lot easier for patients to reach their own doctor.”
The system for patients to book a vaccination slot at a center is complex, with numerous different processes in the country’s 16 states. Katzenstein argues it’s tricky for a 90-year-old to navigate the online system.
“I think we have a social obligation as a whole society being in lockdown. We need to do everything which is quick, pragmatic.”
Germany has been in varying degrees of lockdown since November and this week restrictions were extended again until the end of March.
But internal logistics and bureaucracy are only part of the issue.
Factors at play
At the start of the pandemic last year, everything was in place for Merkel to handle it with success.