Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her government against criticism that Germany’s vaccine roll-out was too slow, saying that there had been good reason for Europe’s modest pace compared to other regions.
Asking for more patience from a pandemic-weary public, she stuck to her government’s pledge to offer all German adults a COVID-19 vaccination by the end of the third quarter.
She listed the decision to seek a regular, not an emergency, approval for vaccines in order to build public trust and the decision to stick to the prescribed interval between injections as reasons for the slower pace.
“The path has been slower at some points, but I think there were good reasons for this,” she told journalists after a meeting with state leaders and representatives of pharmaceuticals companies and the European Commission.
The EU’s civil service and European Union governments have been under fire for making slower progress in vaccinating their populations against the coronavirus than Britain, Israel and the United States, especially after key suppliers cut their delivery estimates.
But Merkel said that even in a scenario in which vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and CureVac did not turn up, Germany would be able to offer every adult a jab by the end of the summer. No child vaccine has yet been approved.
“It will remain tight in the first quarter,” Berlin mayor Michael Mueller told the same news conference, while Bavarian premier Markus Soeder admitted that the wait would try the public’s patience.
Merkel added that it was still unclear whether immunity would need to be renewed each year, and warned that there was no absolute certainty. A variant of the coronavirus could yet derail all plans.
“If, for example, a mutant occurs on which the vaccine does not work, then we start all over again,” she said.