Germany: There's 'frustration' over vaccine rollout says expert
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German health minister Jens Spahn, who was once seen as a contender to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor, is said to be “fighting for his career” as the country’s slow vaccine roll-out sees no sign of improving. The health minister is understood to be at loggerheads with Ms Merkel, with the Chancellor accusing him of attempting to blame Brussels for Germany’s vaccine bungle.
At the start of the year a leaked letter showed Ms Merkel personally intervened in the vaccine debate, by stopping German, French, Italian and Dutch health ministers from ordering more stocks of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last summer.
The letter, which included the signatory of Mr Spahn, stated the health ministers agreed to handover control of vaccine orders to the European Commission.
At the time the German Chancellor suspected her health minister was behind the leak, in a bid to shift blame towards the EU rather than his own policy failings.
German media now states Ms Merkel is seeking “revenge” for the move, by taking control of the vaccine programme and overriding one of Mr Spahn’s flagship pledges.
Ms Merkel is understood to have brought responsibility for the vaccine programme into the chancellor’s office, thus limiting Mr Spahn’s authority.
The health minister was also humiliated this week when the chancellor blocked his plan to roll out rapid testing from March 1.
On February 16 Mr Spahn initially pledged that everyone in Germany would be able to access rapid tests free of charge from the start of next month.
But the Chancellor’s office called a halt to this week saying the scheme requires further review.
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A spokesman for Ms Merkel said the rapid-testing plan will be discussed at talks between the chancellor and state premiers on March 3. No other dates were given.
German newspaper Bild has described Mr Spahn as a “ministerial flop” in an article published today.
The authors write: “From possible chancellor to breakdown minister.
“Sometimes there are only a few months between a political high and a low.
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“With Jens Spahn it is only eight weeks.”
The paper sites the slow vaccine roll-out and failure to achieve rapid-testing as the reasons for his decline in popularity.
The authors state Mr Spahn is now “fighting alone for his career”.
In December the health minister promised Germany would carry out 5 million doses of the vaccine by the end of January, but only 4 million were administered.
Mr Spahn also set the goal of vaccinating all care home residents by mid-February, something that has also not been achieved.
Mr Sphan’s approval rating, which was 65 percent in November, dropped to 51 percent this month.
Ms Merkel currently stands on 69 percent.
As of February 22 Germany has administered 4,719,900 coronavirus vaccinations.
This compares to the UK’s total that has almost reached 18 million.
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