COVID: Germany's Spahn urges more jabs
Berlin, Sep 09: German Health Minister Jens Spahn spoke on Wednesday of a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" as he urged people to receive their COVID jabs to prevent health care services from being overwhelmed in fall and winter.
"Every single vaccination decision also decides how safely we get through fall and winter together," Spahn said.
Spahn said that the number of people who were still unvaccinated was too high to ensure that hospitals did not come under severe strain during the colder months.
Currently, just over 60% of people living in Germany have been fully vaccinated, and 66% partially.
'Freedom and normality' within reach
Responding to concerns that that new anti-coronavirus measures might be imposed in the fall owing to the slowing uptake of vaccinations and the rising rates of infection in Germany, Spahn said this was the wrong way to look at things.
"The debate should be the other way round: We have the means in our hands to vaccinate ourselves back to freedom and normality," he said.
Spahn made his remarks at a press conference in Berlin together with the head of Germany's RKI public health agency, Lothar Wieler. They came as the government is set to launch a nationwide "joint vaccination week" from next Monday during which opportunities to be inoculated will be even more widely available and attractive. Spahn spoke of "a lot of creative ideas" being mentioned.
Rising intensive care cases
Like Spahn, Wieler also warned that "if we do not drastically increase the current vaccination rates, the current fourth wave could take a highly severe course in fall."
"The pandemic is not over," he said.
Wieler said that the number of people in intensive care in Germany had almost doubled in the past two weeks and that the average age of patients was going down.
Both Spahn and Wieler pointed out that it is mostly non-vaccinated people who are currently in intensive care being treated for COVID-19. Spahn said 90% of intensive care patients with coronavirus infections were unvaccinated, while the infection rate with those who had had the jab was 10 to 14 times as high as with those that had not.
Wieler said that according to RKI estimates, vaccinations had prevented some 77,000 hospital stays, 22,000 cases in intensive care units and more than 38,000 deaths between January and July. He said more than 700,000 infections were estimated to have been avoided in the same period.
Obligation to children
The two health officials also stressed that the fact there is no approved vaccine for children under 12 was an urgent reason for others to be vaccinated.
"It is all of our obligation to make sure that these children are not infected if possible," Spahn said, adding that although the decision to get vaccinated would remain free and personal, it was one that affected others as well.
Spahn also said he considered it justifiable that unvaccinated employees who had to go into quarantine should have their pay docked. He said he did not see why others should pay for the fact that people did not get vaccinated when enough vaccines were available.
Germany on Wednesday recorded a seven-day incidence of 82.7 infections per 100,000 people, according to RKI figures. Although the rate has fallen slightly for two days in a row, Wieler said this did not necessarily indicate that infections were actually falling.
"We always have to observe that in the longer term," he said.