Germany's COVID-19 vaccination centres to hit capacity by end of March

BERLIN, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Germany will run up against limits on its capacity to inoculate people against COVID-19 by the end of March, health ministry documents showed, as an expected increase in supply puts its network of vaccination centres to the test.

Germany has so far been starved of shots as drugmakers faced production problems, but shortages are likely to ease as deliveries accelerate, according to a revised vaccine strategy released by the health ministry on Wednesday.

The strategy update came as German biotech startup BioNTech launched a new facility in the German town of Marburg, expecting first vaccines made there to be distributed in early April.

BioNTech’s shot, made in partnership with U.S. drug company Pfizer, was the first to win approval for use in the European Union.

Germany is also getting vaccines from Moderna and AstraZeneca. The Pfizer and Moderna shots need to be kept frozen, while Astra’s can be stored in a fridge, making it suitable for administration by family doctors.

Around 2.4 million people have been vaccinated in Germany, or 2.9% of the population, since it started vaccinations in December, health ministry data showed.

Initial shortages should give way in the second quarter to more abundant supply, when Germany expects to receive 77 million vaccine doses. Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised shots to all adults who want one by the end of the summer.

To reach this target, vaccinations will be offered at general practitioners’ clinics, working in parallel with the existing network of more than 400 vaccination centres, the plan document read.

“It is becoming clear that the vaccination centres will have to continue to operate for a longer period of time, even after doctors’ practices are involved,” it read.

In the plan, Germany’s Institute for Statutory Health Care (Zi) recommended increasing the daily capacity of vaccination centres to 300,000 from 200,000 to meet targets.

According to Zi calculations and based on drugmakers’ delivery commitments, Germany will be able to inoculate around three million people a week from May and administer around one million shots a day by the end of June. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Riham Alkousaa Editing by Douglas Busvine)