People in Germany have been urged by the country’s health minister to take the Covid-19 vaccine, with the warning that if vaccination numbers do not increase the country’s hospitals may be overwhelmed by patients later in the year.
So far just 61% of Germany’s population have had a complete course of two Covid vaccines, a lower proportion than in comparable European countries, and the daily vaccination rate has been falling for weeks.
New infections are on the rise, meanwhile. On Saturday, the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency, reported 10,835 new Covid-19 cases, up from 10,303 a week ago.
The slowing uptake prompted the health minister, Jens Spahn, to tweet: “We need at least 5 million vaccinations for a safe autumn and winter.”
“The number of people who have been vaccinated is too low to prevent an overburdening of the health system,” the health minister told daily Hannoversche Zeitung, according to the Associated Press. He said 90% of Covid-19 patients in intensive care are unvaccinated, the German news agency dpa reported.
Christian Drosten, who is regarded as Germany’s foremost coronavirus expert, said the idea of “a relaxed autumn is a risky assumption” and warned that contact restrictions may have to be implemented again if new infections keep going up, dpa reported.
Drosten suggested some Germans don’t appreciate vaccines enough because the earlier phases of the pandemic were less devastating in Germany than in other European countries. “They have had a horrible experience as an entire society,” Drosten said of other European countries. “Many deaths, a real lockdown, where one was only allowed to go out for shopping for a reason, and where the streets were patrolled by the military.”
In Germany, 92,325 people have died of Covid-19, according to the Robert Koch Institute. Other European countries have seen many more deaths even though their populations are lower: Britain has had over 133,000; Italy had 129,000 and France has seen over 115,000 dead.