A doctor holds a syringe that contains Moderna’s vaccine against Covid-19. Corona vaccinations are currently running everywhere in Germany. (Rolf Vennenbernd)
The vaccinations against the corona virus have started nationwide. A 101-year-old senior woman from Berlin was the first German to receive a vaccination on December 27, 2020.
The unprecedented vaccination campaign started across Germany shortly before the turn of the year. First, people over the age of 80, as well as nurses and hospital staff at particular risk, are to be immunized. For this purpose, mobile vaccination teams in particular will be on the road.
The more than 400 vaccination centers will mostly only be put into operation in the next few days.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) reiterated the goal of a vaccination offer to all citizens until the end of summer on September 21 close. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, more and more vaccines will be available in the course of the year. After 18.3 million cans in the current first quarter, according to current estimates, 77.1 million cans from various manufacturers could follow in the second quarter and 126.6 million in the third quarter. It could be 100.2 million cans in the fourth quarter.
The estimate is based on contracts and planned agreements, as well as expected approval dates for some vaccines.
The ministry emphasized that the forecasts are always fraught with uncertainty and changes are not unusual.
We answer the most important questions and about the corona vaccinations:
Where is the corona vaccine injected?
Is injected in each case in the upper arm muscle.
The active ingredient can stay in the muscle for a few hours and the body has time to recognize it and react to it, explains the Rostock virologist Andreas Podbielski.
How often do you get vaccinated?
All three vaccines approved in Germany require two doses of active ingredient. With the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer, the patient receives a dose every three weeks, with the product from Moderna it is around four, with Astrazeneca at least four weeks.
The same preparation should always be used for both vaccinations: “A series of vaccinations that has been started must be completed with the same vaccine, even if other vaccines have since been approved,” says the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) announced that if the preparation was changed, full effectiveness could not be guaranteed at the moment.
The re are still no corresponding studies.
What are the side effects of corona vaccinations?
According to the RKI were Pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, joint pain and chills the side effects most frequently observed after previous vaccinations. In general, however, these were weak to moderate and subsided after a short time.
The re have been no reports of serious adverse effects with any of the three vaccines.
The Standing Vaccination Commission at the RKI also recommends vaccination for people with immunodeficiency – for example, with HIV infections, cancer or after organ transplants. “Although people with weakened immune systems may not respond as well to the vaccine, there are no particular safety concerns,” says the European Medicines Agency (EMA). “Immune-weakened people can still be vaccinated, as they may be at higher risk from Covid-19.”
Do the vaccines also protect against mutations of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus?
That has not yet been finally clarified, but the manufacturers Moderna and Biontech / Pfizer are confident. Initial tests indicate that their vaccines also protect against the two mutants initially identified in Great Britain and South Africa. However, the companies also found that those vaccinated against the variant from South Africa evidently develop a weaker immune response.
Manufacturers are watching developments very closely.
The vaccine could be adjusted if necessary, said Pfizer and Biontech. Among other things, Moderna wants to test the effect of an additional booster dose.
The se corona vaccines are already in use
The preparation from the Mainz company Biontech and the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer was the first corona vaccine approved in the EU. On December 21, 2020, the EU Commission gave the green light. In the tests leading up to approval, the vaccine showed an extremely high level 95 percent effectiveness. This means that 95 percent fewer diseases occurred among the subjects in the vaccinated group than among those in the control group.
Germany has secured around 94 million doses of the vaccine.
The manufacturer said it could potentially ship up to 75 million additional doses of its vaccine to the European Union in the second quarter. In addition, work is being done to increase deliveries from the week of February 15 to ensure the contractually agreed full delivery of vaccine doses in the first quarter, it said.
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The preparation is a so-called mRNA vaccine. “M” stands for messenger (messenger), “RNA” for ribonucleic acid (German: ribonucleic acid).
The mRNA is the building instruction for a component of the Covid-19 pathogen and gets into the body cells with the help of tiny fat droplets.
The se then produce the virus protein against which the body develops its immune response.
The vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees, before use it must be thawed.
The preparation can be transported at these temperatures for up to 15 days in specially developed shipping boxes. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. As Biontech’s updated recommendations for action show, the vaccine can also be transported as a finished dose in the syringe for up to six hours at 2 to 8 degrees. That would have resulted in new data on the stability of the vaccine.
The second agent approved in the EU followed on January 6th, the US manufacturer’s vaccine, also an mRNA vaccine. Germany has ordered 50 million cans so far; at 94 percent, the Moderna product is as effective as that from Biontech.
Small advantage over the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer: It can be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The Moderna vaccine is stable for 30 days at refrigerator temperature and twelve hours at room temperature.
Astrazeneca: With 70 percent effectiveness
The vaccine from the British-Swedish manufacturer, which was approved in the EU at the end of January, is somewhat less reliable. It is considered inexpensive and particularly suitable for mass vaccinations because it does not have to be cooled as much as the Biontech vaccine, for example.
How effective the vaccine is in older people is still unclear.
The Standing Vaccination Commission based at the Robert Koch Institute had the Astrazeneca vaccine in Germany Recommended only for people aged 18 to 64 years. To assess the effectiveness of the vaccine from 65 years, there are not yet sufficient data, it said.
The EU had ordered 80 million vaccine doses at the end of March.
The fact that it should now be less is currently causing a dispute between Brussels and the manufacturer.
The federal government had calculated around 56 million cans. In the meantime, the pharmaceutical company announced that it wanted to deliver more vaccine to the EU countries. In the first quarter, nine million cans would be added, a total of 40 million cans, said EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The British-Swedish manufacturer surprisingly announced a week ago that it would deliver only 31 instead of 80 million doses of the vaccine approved in the EU since Friday in the first quarter.
Astrazeneca’s product with the active ingredient AZD1222 is not an mRNA vaccine, but is based on the weakened version of a chimpanzee cold virus. It contains genetic material from a surface protein with which the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen docks onto human cells. Here, too, the cells form the protein with the help of the assembly instructions and the body develops an immune response against it.
The se corona vaccines are still being tested
The Tübingen-based biotech company is researching a drug for which the approval-relevant clinical phase III study began in December. Curevac expects results by the end of March.
The federal government has ordered up to 73 million doses of the vaccine.
Curevac is cooperating with the pharmaceutical company Bayer, which was initially only supposed to help with approval work and other services, but is now also planning the production of the Curevac vaccine.
The US manufacturer started the crucial phase of the clinical tests in September 2020.
The special feature of the agent is that only one dose should provide sufficient protection. Germany is to receive 37.25 million cans. When the vaccine could be approved in the EU is still open.
The EU Commission had already signed a contract with the pharmaceutical companies from France and Great Britain in September 2020. But there were setbacks in the development of the vaccine.
The manufacturers now expect the earliest possible availability in the fourth quarter of 2021. If the agent is approved, the EU states could buy up to 300 million cans.
Valneva: In mid-January, the EU Commission concluded exploratory talks with the French biotech company.
The planned contract provides for the purchase of up to 60 million cans. According to the EU Commission, Valneva is developing a “classic” vaccine with inactivated viruses.
Novavax: With an effectiveness of 90 percent, the vaccine candidate from this US manufacturer also gives hope.
The US pharmaceutical company Baxter announced in mid-January that the Novavax vaccine, which has not yet been approved, would be manufactured in the Baxter branch in Halle (North Rhine-Westphalia), among other places. Biontech and Pfizer also want to produce their vaccine in Halle in the future.