German Covid expert warns that flagging vaccine take-up risks autumn wave

Country’s vaccination rate has plateaued at 64%, as rate of infections creeps up

Prof Christian Drosten: ‘In Germany we are not there at all.’ Photograph: Andreas Gora/Pool /Getty

Germany’s leading Covid-19 expert predicts a surge of infections in October unless the country can boost its “inadequate” vaccination rate against the virus, which has plateaued at 64 per cent of the population.

The warning from Prof Christian Drosten of Berlin’s Charité clinic came as Germany’s seven-day incidence rate of new coronavirus infections began to increase again, to 61 per seven days per 100,000 residents.

“I think there are now signs of the autumn and winter wave that we will probably see again in October,” said Prof Drosten in a weekly podcast. He predicted that by the second half of October, Germany would be “heading once more into an exponential increase”.

After a slow start compared with its neighbours, Germany hit its stride in early summer, vaccinating up to one million people a day. But after 107 million doses, the number has flattened, and German cities have begun closing and consolidating vaccination centres.


Prof Drosten insisted that a vaccination rate of more than 90 per cent remained the goal for full efficacy, but that it was the task of politicians to achieve that. “Science has delivered, the vaccination is here,” he said, pointing to large regional differences in vaccination rates.

Eastern lag

The lowest rates of vaccination are consistently in eastern federal states, in particular Saxony, Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.

Local health authorities have started a series of campaigns and offers to lure eastern Germans to vaccination centres: free fast food, ice cream, vouchers and special “family days” for all ages, with free childcare.

The east-west differences in vaccination rates have many reasons, say experts, including history and education levels. East Germans were obliged to be vaccinated or face fines, starting in 1953, while West Germany’s general vaccination requirement was ruled unconstitutional in 1959. After that, the authorities focused on information campaigns rather than pressure.

Another factor in Germany’s vaccination slow-down, according to Prof Drosten, is the lower level of education, in particular in eastern regions. He pointed to neighbouring Denmark, with a vaccination rate of 75 per cent, and a loosening of almost all pandemic rules.

“Denmark, for example, is in a significantly better position than Germany – also because there and in other Scandinavian countries there is a very high level of information and education,” he said. “Many people simply understand what the vaccination is good for; there is less hesitation with the vaccination. In Germany we are not there at all.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin