By Joseph Nasr and Ludwig Burger
BERLIN, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Germany to promote Moderna for Germans seeking booster doses as high demand for the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine risks depleting stocks and thwarting efforts to control a fourth wave of the pandemic, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday.
The minister warned during a press conference that some 16 million doses of Moderna could expire in the first quarter of next year if not used, adding that some experts consider it the “Rolls-Royce” of vaccines, while that of BioNTech is the “Mercedes”.
“Unfortunately, the impression is that we will insist on Moderna only to avoid the expiration of those vaccines in the first quarter of 2022,” Spahn said.
“This is an important aspect, but not the decisive one. The crucial thing is that our BioNTech stocks are running out so fast that next week we will not be able to deliver more than 2-3 million doses a week,” he added.
Germany is struggling to stem a fourth wave driven primarily by the highly infectious Delta variant, which has pushed infection rates to record highs across Europe.
The Robert Koch Institute reported Monday that the seven-day infection count rose to 386.5 per 100,000 citizens, or 30,643 total over 24 hours, 7,000 more than a week ago. More than 60 people have died from the virus in the last 24 hours.
Germany’s 16 states, whose mandate includes public health, are trying to break the wave by administering booster injections, appealing to the unvaccinated to get immunized and imposing restrictions.
Spahn sought to allay concerns about vaccine shortages, as Germany has a combination of 50 million doses of BioNTech and Moderna available through the end of the year, enough for the first and second injections, as well as boosters.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Weiss in Frankfurt; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)