Germany’s Slow Covid Vaccine Campaign Is Starting to Bear Fruit

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Even as Germany’s sluggish Covid-19 vaccine campaign has left politicians arguing about who’s to blame, the first signs of success are starting to emerge.

With priority given to seniors and nursing-home residents, the infection rate in people over the age of 80 has plummeted by about 80% since the start of the vaccine campaign in late December. Including younger seniors who haven’t been called up yet for a shot, the infection rate in people over the age of 65 has dropped by 64%.

Germany’s Slow Covid Vaccine Campaign Is Starting to Bear Fruit

Germany administered about 6.8 million doses through Thursday, with 42% of them going to seniors and much of the remainder going to healthcare workers and caretakers, according to the country’s health ministry. That rate should accelerate for the elderly after Germany on Thursday decided to start giving the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine to people 65 and up.

The initial trend in Germany bears out what’s been seen in studies of faster vaccine drives in the U.K. and Israel. The data show that the shots approved so far work overwhelmingly well, both to block new infection and prevent people who do get sick from being hospitalized.

Even as Germany’s overall case counts remain relatively steady over the past month, intensive-care occupancy has been cut by about one-third.

A major impact has become evident in North Rhine-Westphalia -- the country’s biggest state -- since authorities finished vaccinating the 200,000 people in the state’s care homes two weeks ago.

Some 5,000 had Covid at the end of last year, but as of Friday, fewer than 500 were infected, Karl-Josef Laumann, the state’s health minister, said at a briefing.

“Even the sickness that we see is so mild that people don’t need to go to the hospital,” Laumann said. “I am convinced it has saved lives.”

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