Spaces to queue are already marked on the way to the 64 miniature doctor’s offices where thousands of people a day will be vaccinated against Covid-19 in Hamburg.
Only the green light from the European Union is needed for Germany’s largest vaccination site to kick in, with all new equipment ready in the sprawling convention center in the northern port city.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to rule on Monday, the last step before Brussels can give the green light, and Germany hopes to start vaccinating on December 27.
“We are ready. The procedures have been tested… the only thing we need now is the vaccine, ”says Melanie Leonhard, the city’s health and social affairs senator.
Germany’s second city with two million inhabitants, Hamburg has opted for a large-scale solution to release the vaccine as quickly as possible.
Spread over 11,000 square meters (118,000 square feet), the space in the convention center will be able to accommodate 7,000 daily vaccinations, with a large number of doctors and nursing staff supervised by six senior doctors.
Vaccination will be voluntary in Hamburg and at over 400 other sites across the country of 80 million people.
Those who opt for the jab will need around an hour to pass the registration desk and enter one of the injection booths, with a rest stop afterwards where they will be watched for side effects or symptoms. allergic reactions.
The city has also brought in translators and interpreters to overcome language barriers, while there will be a fast-track queue for people who are less mobile.
– ‘Create trust’ –
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading at the vaccination center itself, visitors will have their temperature taken before entering and a mask and distancing will be required once inside.
“We want to build trust among the public… let them know that it is serious and really professional,” says Walter Plassmann, director of the Hamburg Medical Federation, which runs the center.
Health Senator Leonhard points out that every cubicle “looks like an examination room” in an everyday doctor’s office.
As elsewhere in Europe and around the world, suspicions and unfounded conspiracy theories have sprouted online about vaccines in Germany.
But Dirk Heinrich, one of 1,400 doctors who volunteered to vaccinate their fellow hamburgers, has seen firsthand what the virus can do.
“I have seen people with Covid-19 in my office before, and unfortunately some of them have died,” said the ear, nose and throat doctor, wearing a white hoodie printed with the slogan “Hamburg gets vaccinated”.
The virus “is a real disaster, and the vaccine is the only chance to end it,” adds Heinrich.
Much like other places in the world, the extremely low temperatures needed to preserve the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine – around -70 Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) – are proving a headache for authorities in Hamburg.
“There are very, very delicate conditions for handling the vaccine,” Plassmann admits, adding that “we haven’t been able to test” every step yet.
Germany is also expecting a slow start to its vaccination campaign, with just 400,000 doses initially scheduled for delivery – which likely means only a few thousand will reach Hamburg.
Only people in high risk categories will receive their two injections in the first few weeks.
And people over the age of 80 won’t need to travel to the vaccination center, with mobile teams moving across Hamburg to inject them at home or in care homes.
© 2020 AFP