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Corona pandemic: vaccination disaster with announcement | tagesschau.de

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Status: 02/25/2021 7:33 am



There is a lack of vaccines against the coronavirus across Europe. To ContrastsResearch is lacking in production capacities, raw materials and supplies. Now a vaccination coordinator is supposed to turn things around.

By Ursel Sieber, Chris Humbs and Marcus Weller,
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After research by the ARD-Politikmagazins Contrasts Corona vaccine manufacturers in Germany are currently struggling with delivery bottlenecks. “We hardly get any machines, we have problems with the procurement of consumables, we have bottlenecks in raw materials,” Konstantin Metanzoglu, managing director of Celonic in Heidelberg, told Contrasts: “Above all, it is difficult to get a delivery guarantee from suppliers.” In Heidelberg, the medium-sized company is soon to produce millions of vaccines against Covid-19.

The problems in setting up production are no accident and they tell a lot about the background of a disaster with an announcement. After all, the EU did not order the vaccines from BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna until mid-November and early December 2020 – so late that the companies had hardly any advance notice when purchasing raw materials or setting up a factory.

Bottlenecks became apparent early on

That is why there is too little vaccine in the EU – that became clear by Christmas of last year at the latest. Instead of tackling the problem and supporting the manufacturers in building capacities with all their might, nothing happened at government level. It is clear to every economist: if you order late, you will also receive late delivery.

“We spent six weeks denying that”, criticizes the Bonn economist Moritz Schularick: “The responsible ministers should have admitted mistakes and had to adopt the faster procurement of vaccine. But they duck back and take no responsibility” , told Schularick Contrasts. It is in the interests of society to ramp up production at full throttle in a pandemic. From a business point of view, however, it is interesting for companies to stretch production over a longer period of time.

Ifo Institute: Each additional dose of vaccine saves 1500 euros in damage

Any vaccine dose that comes sooner has enormous social benefits. That is why Clemens Fuest, President of the Munich Ifo Economic Institute, calls for high premiums to be offered for every additional dose that is delivered. “Estimates say that the benefit of each additional vaccination that is delivered earlier is 1500 euros,” says Fuest. “The cost per vaccination is somewhere between four and 18 euros.” Given such numbers, the state could actually pay ten times or more per dose – there would still be a profit economically. The pandemic costs 420 billion euros in economic output worldwide every month.

But Fuest could not land with the demand for bonuses in Berlin. “Too difficult, that doesn’t help” was the reaction. He complained in the Contrasts-Interview about the “stubbornness” of the responsible ministries, about the unwillingness to break new ground.

Ifo boss Fuest was unable to prevail with his proposal in Berlin.

Bild: picture alliance / Soeren Stache


The circular that Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier sent to the vaccine developers on February 9, 2021 testifies to this. He asked if and how the Ministry could offer help and asked for a short report to get an overview. The fact that two important vaccine developers, the Moderna and Novavax companies, were missing may indicate that the overview at Altmaier was not that far off.

New vaccines, new requirements

There are also problems with the procurement of raw materials that are necessary for mRNA vaccines. In this process, no pathogens or their components are used for immunization, as was previously the case with vaccines. Instead, they contain a kind of genetic construction manual that is supposed to enable the immune system to produce specific antigens to fight pathogens. This process has been researched for years.

And it is precisely for these new vaccines that special lipids are needed for the first time – tiny fat globules, only a fraction of the size of the fat globules in milk, which form a protective cover and prevent the mRNA from being broken down before it reaches the cells in which the Immune defense should be activated. Each mRNA manufacturer needs different lipids. Some of them are – at least according to the presentation of BioNTech CFO Poetting at the vaccination summit – apparently in short supply.

However, without these lipids there are no mRNA vaccines. Nevertheless, the quantities that are needed for the mRNA vaccines are comparatively manageable. Therefore, according to Gustav A. Oertzen, management consultant and lecturer at Leuphana University Lüneburg, it is not necessarily lucrative for suppliers to abandon all other orders and ramp up production at full throttle. The vaccines are highly profitable for developers like BioNTech / Pfizer or Moderna – but that does not apply to all suppliers. That is why premiums should primarily be aimed at suppliers.

Scholz prevails

Behind the scenes there was rumbling in the federal government. Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is said to have campaigned for the appointment of a vaccination coordinator. And Scholz apparently prevailed – last Friday a vaccination coordinator was appointed: Christoph Krupp, a confidante of Scholz, currently still head of the federal agency for real estate and formerly head of the Hamburg Senate Chancellery.

Finance Minister Scholz put his confidante Krupp through as vaccination coordinator.

Image: dpa


He will officially take up his post on March 1st – sent to the Federal Ministry of Economics. Krupp is a scientist and is considered a capable manager. Celonic managing director Metanzoglu hopes that he will quickly acquire expertise from the pharmaceutical sector. He has been in favor of a coordinator for a long time, he says – but wonders why he is only coming now.

USA use law from the Korean War

It is different in the USA, where the state gives the manufacturers massive support and was ready to boost production with billions. The basis for this is “Operation Warp Speed” – set up under President Donald Trump. The state intervened quickly and unbureaucratically if something got stuck in the production of vaccines.

An example: The Alabama company SiO2 was commissioned to manufacture small glass vials for corona vaccines. The company has already received a cash injection of $ 142 million to set up a new production line. When a construction company could not be found to expand the new halls, the government stepped in, said Lawrence Ganti, CEO of SiO2: “There aren’t many construction companies in this part of Alabama. And everyone was instructed to prioritize the work for SiO2 to make sure we can meet the deadline, “Ganti told Contrasts, “That was pretty impressive.”

Stories like from another world. All of this happened in June 2020. The EU Commission has set up a task force since mid-February 2021 and the federal government has appointed a vaccine coordinator – official start of work: March 1st.

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