When Tristan Rayner got an unexpected call from his doctor asking if he wanted a coronavirus vaccine, he couldn’t believe it.
“Everyone I talk to asks, ‘How do I get it? What do I do? ” Said Rayner, who is from Australia and lives in Berlin.
Rayner is one of around 12.2 million people, nearly 15 percent, who received their first dose of the vaccine in Germany since the inoculation campaign began in late December.
About five million people, about six percent, have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in Germany.
Vaccination levels in Germany have lagged behind other countries, including the UK and the US But they seem to be gradually picking up speed as vaccine supplies are delivered and more GPs start vaccinating. .
More than 656,000 injections were given on Wednesday – a record daily amount. And that was followed Thursday with 719,927 shots, another record.
Rayner, 35, was contacted by his GP, who received a shipment from AstraZeneca, in March.
The surgery was part of a pilot project involving dozens of clinics in Germany, administered a small number of doses of vaccine.
“The doctor told me they got an email saying they were getting a lot of vaccinations, asking them to ‘vaccinate everyone at their clinic,'” Rayner said. “A police escort arrived with the doses of the vaccine.”
Rayner, who has diabetes and is therefore in a priority group, was briefed on the potential risks of AstraZeneca prior to his jab in late March.
In speaking with his doctor, Rayner realized that several people in the practice were not interested in receiving the AstraZeneca injection due to the risks associated with blood clots that led German authorities to recently. restrict its use in the age group of under 60 years.
Rayner said it crossed his mind to ask for another vaccine, but felt he had to “trust that the vaccine had been approved, that science is on your side, that there is a small chance that something will go wrong.”
A GP vaccinates a patient in Kranichfeld, Thuringia, on April 7. Photo: DPA
“My GP reassured me. It was certainly not about going in, getting the vaccine and going out,” he added. “It was sitting down and discussing the risks, which you need to be aware of.”
Rayner said that in the end he “had no hesitation” in receiving the AstraZeneca jab, and that obtaining it from his local doctor made the process easier.
“I think that makes a big difference over the big clinics. For some people, they want someone they know to tell them what it really is like. Confidence really helps. “
States have different systems
One of the trickiest parts of the vaccination rollout in Germany is that each state has a different way of doing things.
Some invite patients by letter, while others rely on residents to contact them by phone or online.
At the moment, most states have completed priority vaccination from group one and have moved to group two, which includes people 70 to 79 years old, people with serious pre-existing diseases, as well as elementary school teachers, riot police and two Close contacts of pregnant women, who can designate.
But it’s spotty, and anecdotally, there seem to be a few different ways the vaccine is offered to people.
Terry Kidd, an engineer living in the town of Geisenfeld, Bavaria, is 70 years old and in priority group two.
She had heard from a 67-year-old friend (in priority group three) who had called a vaccination center to ask when she should get an injection. After a wait, they called her and asked her to come immediately.
Kidd asked similar questions at his local vaccination center and received a text message offering his first injection.
“The fact that I told them beforehand that I was happy to take AstraZeneca may have helped, who knows?” he said.
Kidd, who is from the UK and has lived in Bavaria since 2005, said her paperwork was reviewed and she had to fill out an additional form with medical conditions at her vaccination appointment.
A doctor, who switched to English after detecting Kidd’s accent, reminded Kidd of some of the possible risks associated with AstraZeneca, and had to sign a document saying that he had been informed.
“He also said I could feel a little hard for three or four days,” Kidd said.
“A nurse injected me and then they took me to a waiting room and told me to sit for 15 minutes,” he added. I very sincerely thanked the small team and went on my way ”.
It seems that it depends on where you live if you can choose which vaccine to get.
A spokeswoman for the Bavarian health authority told The Local: “Currently, the citizens of Bavaria still cannot choose the vaccine. As soon as the vaccine is available in sufficient quantities, people who receive the vaccine should have a choice. This is done at the national level ”.
And a spokeswoman for the North Rhine-Westphalia health office told us: “Due to the still limited availability of vaccines, citizens are not free to choose which vaccine is supplied to them at the 53 vaccination centers.”
‘It was nice to have the option’
In Berlin, those who receive a letter with a code to book an appointment seem to be able to choose which vaccine to receive. However, GPs are likely to only offer one type of vaccine.
Tamsin Paternoster, 24, works part-time as a daycare clerk. He received a letter with a code that allowed him to book an appointment online.
Paternoster said they gave him a choice of three vaccines: AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.
Because AstraZeneca is restricted to those under the age of 60, Paternoster settled on the other two that had similar wait times of just under two months.
He opted for the Pfizer / BioNTech option and secured an appointment in two months for May 26.
Paternoster, who is from the UK, was also able to choose the location in Berlin for the jab.
She said reading reports about AstraZeneca made her nervous, but if it was the only option, she wouldn’t rule out having it.
“I think it is exciting and necessary to have the vaccine,” he said, adding, “It was nice to have the option.”
Jaton ‘Louise West, 76, from Berlin and originally from the US, said she and her partner booked an appointment for BioNTech / Pfizer after receiving an invitation from the Berlin Senate in office.
“We are 70 years old, but our neighbor, who is 80 years old, has already received his two vaccinations and was impressed with how well the process was handled at the vaccination center.”
West said it was easy to sign up for an appointment on the website, but she’s heard of other people struggling to sign up over the phone. An appointment for the injection from Pfizer had a wait of about seven weeks.
Many foreigners in Germany are comparing their experience with what is happening at home. For West, things seem better in Berlin than in his home country.
Daycare worker at a vaccination center in Cologne. Photo: DPA
“I think the process in Berlin is much easier than in the United States,” he said, referring to how people in the United States “have to rush to find out where they can get an injection.”
“In Berlin, we have the six vaccination centers and we only select the one that offers us the vaccine we want,” he said.
West also praised Berlin for offering free taxi rides to and from vaccination centers for seniors.
“All we have to do is show the taxi driver our appointment sheet,” he said.
Although there have been problems with supplies and changes in the management of AstraZeneca, West said: “In terms of organizing the process of vaccinating people, I think Germany has done a wonderful job.”
‘No sense of urgency’
Michael, 71, a UK citizen in Baden-Württemberg, said he is classified as clinically vulnerable and was frustrated that he was unable to initially secure an appointment for vaccination.
He also described the way Germany handled the vaccination process as “embarrassing” and said “there is no sense of urgency.”
“They told me that our local center is handling one patient per hour due to the bureaucracy that the process is built into,” he said.
However, he was happy to inform The Local in a follow-up email this week that he finally got a vaccination appointment.
“I secured the vaccination dates over the weekend, when the website suddenly responded, for no apparent reason,” he said.
“This is good, but you wonder how many others are struggling, particularly those with limited computer skills, because the process is not simple. We secure dates by leveraging others to ‘click’ on our name to leverage our efforts. “
Most people, including some in older age groups, still have no idea when the vaccine will be offered.
Hilary Raeburn is 74 years old and lives in Düsseldorf. The NHS has offered him a coup in the UK where he is originally from, but he cannot make the trip due to strict entry conditions.
She is confused about the system in Germany.
“At 74 years old I am in (priority) group two, but I have read that much younger people are being vaccinated,” he said. “However, given that so few people have been vaccinated, I am not surprised I did not get the vaccine.”
“I have no idea when to expect an offer from the jab.”
Raeburn said the British approach “was not as cautious as the German approach, but the UK is getting the job done.”
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Carson, 68, in Hesse, said he had not received a letter from his local or state GP about a vaccination appointment.
However, there is hope that things will move faster now, increasing hope that residents will be offered an appointment. The RKI chart below shows the largest increase in vaccinations this week in Germany after GPs across the country were allowed to give injections.
Light blue blocks show people who have received one injection and dark blue shows people who have received both doses or are fully vaccinated.
‘You feel a little bit guilty’
Those who have taken their first dose or been able to book an appointment in Germany feel lucky.
Tamsin Paternoster, who is originally from the UK, said she was “very excited” to receive the invitation. “It finally means I could go home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tristan Rayner said it felt “surreal” to take a hit.
“You almost feel a little bit guilty,” he said. “You feel like maybe you are getting something that someone should have received before you. But at the same time, everyone has to take a chance when it arises. And now, on the other side, I feel a lot of relief. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism