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30 Dec, 2020 17:17

‘Great difficulties’: Pfizer vaccine delivery to Berlin CANCELLED for 1st week of January due to logistical problems

‘Great difficulties’: Pfizer vaccine delivery to Berlin CANCELLED for 1st week of January due to logistical problems

The German capital will not receive its batch of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in the first week of January, the city’s health chief has said, blaming it on federal government mishaps.

“We have just received a message from the Federal Ministry of Health that the [vaccine] delivery will be cancelled in the first calendar week [of 2021],” Berlin Health Minister Dilek Kalayci told dpa news agency, adding that the news will be “causing great difficulties” for the city.

The unfortunate development risks jeopardizing Berlin’s vaccination plan, since the city was scheduled to receive 29,250 additional Pfizer vaccine doses on January 4. Now, the local health authorities will need to wait another week to receive them.

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“We would have needed that to… start vaccinating those over 80,” Kalayci said, adding that the city “cannot do that now because these vaccine doses are missing.” So far, Berlin’s Health Ministry decided to focus its efforts on the 23,400 Berlin residents who are older than 90 and who will receive invitations for vaccination early next year.

“If we do not get priority groups vaccinated quickly enough, there will be a problem,” Kalayci said. The German media also reported that the delivery delay could cause a vaccine shortage, meaning that there will not be enough doses to administer to healthcare professionals in the city either.

Kalayci blamed the problem on the federal government’s poor logistics. Berlin’s health minister called on the federal authorities to “organize the delivery in a quicker and more stable manner.” The capital is far from being alone in its plight. The neighboring state of Brandenburg will not receive its vaccine batch in the first week of January either, its Health Ministry confirmed.

The Federal Health Ministry has not provided an exact reason for the delays. Health Minister Jens Spahn has asked for understanding and patience, saying the government is having some “start-up difficulties.” He also said that the next deliveries are planned for “around the end of the next week.”

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The problem, however, might lie with the Pfizer vaccine itself. Two days ago, when the EU launched its vaccination campaign, several German cities already reported some delivery delays, pointing to the fact that temperature trackers mounted on the vaccine containers showed there might have been some inconsistencies in the cold chain.

Stored at -70C, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine cannot be frozen again once thawed, meaning it has to be transported and stored under extremely cold conditions. And the issue seems to be affecting not just Germany.

On Monday, the Spanish Health Ministry said that Pfizer and BioNTech themselves postponed the vaccine deliveries to eight European nations, including Spain, due to a “problem in the loading and shipment process” at its plant in Belgium. Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa also said the issue was “linked to the control of the temperature.”

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