Chancellor Angela Merkel will convene the governors of Germany’s 16 states, along with representatives of pharmaceutical companies to discuss the country’s troubled vaccination scheme, after her health minister, Jens Spahn, warned that the country is facing another 10 weeks of vaccine shortages.
The situation has increasingly angered Germans who were promised an efficient immunization campaign. Even the most vulnerable have struggled to get access to the potentially lifesaving shots.
The German government helped fund development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with 738 million euros, or about $895 million, only to see it first administered in Britain. But many immunization centers set up across Germany stand empty, and older adults who were to be among the first to be vaccinated have been turned away.
“We are facing at least 10 hard weeks, given the lack of vaccines,” Mr. Spahn said on Twitter on Thursday.
Instead of approving and purchasing vaccine doses on its own, Germany chose to band together with 26 other European Union countries to ensure equal access across the bloc. But the process has been slowed by squabbling between members over sluggish vaccine production. This week, it became further bogged down by a dispute with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca, after the company announced that it would not be able to meet its delivery quotas to the European Union.
In other news from around the world:
Chinese officials said on Thursday that several passengers traveling to China from the United States had falsified coronavirus test results so they could gain entry to the country. The Chinese consulate in San Francisco said the passengers “changed their test results from positive to negative” and that other travelers had lied about their results. The consulate did not provide details about the passengers or the punishments they might face. China maintains strict border control rules, including a requirement that travelers present results from antibody and nucleic acid tests before they fly. The consulate said the passengers violated public health laws. “The way they put others at risk is odious,” the statement said.
In the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval on Thursday to the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying that it was 70 percent effective after the first of two doses. The country has reported more than 500,000 cases and 10,000 deaths during the pandemic, second only to Indonesia in Southeast Asia. It has signed a deal with AstraZeneca for 17 million doses, with the first expected to arrive in May.
Japan’s national broadcaster reported on Thursday that the International Swimming Federation, known as FINA, planned to postpone its artistic-swimming qualification event for the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus. The competition, which was to be held at the Tokyo Aquatics Center in March, would have been the first test event for the reorganized Summer Games. It was rescheduled for May.
A businessman from Taiwan has been fined more than $35,000 after he was caught on camera repeatedly breaking rules requiring him to quarantine at home. The man, who returned to Taiwan last week from mainland China, left his home seven times when he was supposed to be in isolation, according to officials in the city of Taichung, where he lives. Taiwan has some of the strictest quarantine rules in the world, a critical part of its success in fighting the virus, and the government routinely punishes and shames people found to be violating regulations. “This misbehavior was serious and must be punished heavily,” Lu Shiow-yen, the mayor of Taichung, said at a news conference this week.