Germany is already ordering vaccines for 2022 in case doses are needed to keep the population immune against variants of COVID-19, amid growing frustration in Europe at the slow pace of vaccination.
European governments are facing criticism over supply and production bottlenecks as vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna have all announced cuts to delivery volumes just as they were expected to ramp up production.
Europe has been crippled by lockdowns for months and many in Germany and other European Union countries are looking enviously at the faster pace of vaccination in Britain, Israel and the United States.
But German Health Minister Jens Spahn has defended the progress on procuring and administering vaccines, saying 2.3 million of Germany’s 83 million people had already received a dose.
“We are now actually ordering further vaccines for 2022, to have at least some on hand,” Spahn said on Saturday.
“Nobody knows if we’ll need a booster.
“With production capacities now being extended, we’ll order vaccines as a precaution. If we don’t need them, good, but if we do then they’ll be available.”
Meanwhile, the EU is pushing ahead with imposing export controls on vaccines manufactured within member states, despite criticism from the World Health Organisation.
But their approach led to outrage in Ireland and the UK when the EU planned to trigger a clause in the Brexit deal to restrict the flow of COVID-19 vaccines entering the UK.
The move could have introduced checks at the Northern Ireland border to restrict exports from Ireland, which is in the EU, into Northern Ireland.
Brussels backtracked on the decision hours after it was announced following condemnation from Dublin, Belfast and London because it effectively created a land border on the Irish island.
Senior British minister Michael Gove said the EU recognises it “made a mistake” in its short-lived move and that vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca were expected to be supplied to the UK as planned.
Last week, a row erupted over vaccine supplies in Europe when AstraZeneca unexpectedly announced cuts in supplies to the EU, citing production problems at a Belgian factory.
– with PA