TUTTLINGEN, Germany (AP) – Stacked gray boxes roll off the production line at a factory in the southern city of Tuttlingen and are ready to be shipped to the front in the next phase of the battle against the coronavirus when it became the latest country. reached the milestone of one million confirmed cases Friday.
Freezers the size of those manufactured by the family-owned company Binder GmbH could become a key part of the huge immunization program the German government is preparing to introduce when the first vaccinations become available next month.
This is because it is one of the leading vaccines manufactured by the German company BioNTech and the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer., cool to minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) for transport and storage.
Ensuring such temperatures, even colder than Antarctic winters, is just one of the many challenges countries face when trying to immunize their populations.
The effort was compared to a military operation. Some countries, including Germany, rely on military and civilian expertise to ensure that valuable doses are safely transported from manufacturing plants to secret storage facilities before being distributed.
Germany has benefited from the market power that comes with membership of the European Union. The executive committee of the 27-member bloc, led by former German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen, has been at the forefront of negotiations with vaccine manufacturers and has ordered more than a billion doses so far.
German officials expect the country to be able to obtain up to 300 million doses from EU orders, as well as bilateral agreements with two German manufacturers, including BioNTech and Tuebingen-based CureVac, to supply its vaccine at regular refrigerator temperatures for up to three months. However, his experiments are not as far away as Pfizer / BioNTech and others.
The 300 million amount depends on all the developed vaccines that go on the market. That would be more than enough to immunize Germany’s 83 million inhabitants, even if two shots are needed, as it seems likely.
Exactly how the vaccine is delivered to patients varies from country to country. In Germany, the federal government has delegated the task to 16 states that are now working on building large vaccination centers.
The city of Berlin welcomed Albrecht Broemme, a veteran of disaster management. The former Berlin fire chief later led the German federal civil protection organization, THW, where he helped organize disaster relief operations due to floods, storms and earthquakes around the world.
The 67-year-old now coordinates the setting up of six vaccination centers in Berlin at a congress center, two former airports, a skating rink, a concert hall and an indoor cycling track.
Authorities want to be ready to vaccinate more than 3,000 people a day at each site by mid-December. Broemme and colleagues only give a few minutes to deliver each shot and are aware that the number of people in each center is minimal, so they develop a one-way flow system, similar to big stores like Ikea furniture maker.
Each site is run by a medical aid team, such as the Red Cross, with volunteers who help register and guide people through the site.
Similarly, elsewhere, the first phase of vaccination in Berlin is likely to focus on immunizing healthcare workers and vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the chronically ill.
The capital is vaccinated daily with about 20,000 people who return after three weeks for a reminder shot.
Demand is likely to exceed supply for the first time, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman declined to say whether she would ask for priority access to her cabinet.
“The German government and its members will follow what the relevant experts consider reasonable,” Steffen Seibert told reporters.
Merkel herself told parliament on Thursday that she hoped regulators would approve the first vaccinations “very quickly”.
“It doesn’t solve the problem right away, but it lights up at the end of the tunnel,” he told lawmakers.
Broemme said she expects four-fifths of the vaccines originally available to require extremely low cooling. This means that each center will need a pharmacy that will also store and thaw vaccines.
At the other end of the country, in Tuttlingen, among the hundreds of medical device manufacturers in the city, Binder GmbH, whose history dates back to the 19th century, sees the need for freezers.
At € 13,000-15,000 ($ 15,500-17,900), each device can keep tens of thousands of vaccine ampoules at optimal temperatures, says Peter Wimmer, the company’s head of innovation.
“Plug and play,” he told the AP. “All you need is an electrical plug, turn it on, and the device is ready to go.”
When the whole extinguishing system is ready at the touch of a button, that is another matter.
It is not yet clear who will actually administer the vaccines in Berlin. Unlike Great Britain, whose centralized National Health Service organizes immunizations, Germany relies on doctors’ associations to provide the necessary medical staff.
Doerthe Arnold, a spokesman for the Berlin branch of the German Association of Statutory Health Insurance Doctors, said they were still waiting for the state government to provide details of what was required of doctors.
“Despite the positive feedback from doctors that they are willing to help even more, providing staff for the six vaccination centers is a challenge,” he said.
The limits of medical logistics were tested in the spring, when there was a huge worldwide demand for ventilators., therapeutic drugs, face masks and other protective equipment have caused wars, bottlenecks and reports of defective products.
Global logistics company DHL estimates that vaccination coverage worldwide could require 15,000 flights over the next two years.
“The challenge is the sheer number of doses and the fact that it’s not clear which vaccine to go to,” said Sabine Hartmann, a DHL spokesman. “This is not what a single company can do alone. All logistics companies need to work together. “
Jordans reported from Berlin.
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