“Vaccinating fast is the order of the day,” Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told citizens in Bavaria during a videoconference on Thursday, stressing that all three vaccines in use in Germany had been approved by the European Medicines Agency and were trustworthy.
“I personally have little sympathy for the reluctance to use one vaccine or another,” he said. “This is a first-world problem, certainly for those who are still waiting for their first vaccination and even more so for people in countries who might not even have the prospect of receiving a first inoculation this year.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France, who had previously dismissed the AstraZeneca vaccine as questionably effective for older age groups, told reporters on Thursday that he would take it himself, responding to reports of the shot facing skepticism in several parts of Europe.
The problem runs deeper than just AstraZeneca. According to a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a third of Germans say they would not get vaccinated, regardless of who made the shot. In addition to AstraZeneca, Germany is also administering the vaccine made by Moderna, an American company, without problems or resistance. The vaccine has an overall efficacy of 94.5 percent.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been generating negative headlines in Germany since January, when the company said it would significantly cut planned deliveries to the European Union. Days before the first doses were delivered, Germany’s vaccine commission recommended that the AstraZeneca shot be given only to adults up to age 65, citing a lack of sufficient data on its efficacy in older people, advice that was followed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.
Then several hospitals were forced to temporarily stop administering AstraZeneca shots after a number of people called in sick the day after their inoculations after experiencing what are considered normal reactions to the vaccine. Although the hospitals have since resumed vaccinations at a slower rate, the headlines created further uncertainty.