An approved vaccine against the coronavirus is in sight. Karl-Josef Laumann is particularly pleased with it: the NRW Health Minister explains the procedure in his state.

The federal states are taking over the distribution of the corona vaccine: how does the most densely populated state of North Rhine-Westphalia deal with it? A meeting with the local health minister.

Chillreport: Mr Laumann, what else are you doing now: with the acute control of the pandemic or the organization for the distribution of the vaccine?

That changes practically every day, depending on where there is more to do. But despite the current massive increase in numbers, I am very happy that there is light at the end of this dark and long tunnel of the pandemic.

You sound optimistic.

Gently optimistic, yes. Because at the moment we do not know whether people who are vaccinated cannot spread the disease anyway, in other words: the disease does not break out in them, but they are contagious to others. Still, the vaccine is the most important key to controlling the pandemic we currently have in our hands.

What is the role of the federal states in distributing the vaccine?

Most of the organization falls to us. And that is extremely time consuming – the federal government’s job is to get the vaccine and give us a certain number of vaccine doses.

So you do the distribution yourself?

Yes, we take care of distribution within the country.

What does that look like specifically in North Rhine-Westphalia?

You have to imagine that in every municipality a vaccination center is set up that, as a local center, arranges the distribution of the drug. There are various vaccination routes in the center, which are organized there by the mayors and district administrators. North Rhine-Westphalia should have one vaccination street for every 70,000 inhabitants, where you go through several stations as a one-way street: essentially the registration, a consultation with a doctor and finally the vaccination.

Who is the first to be vaccinated in your country?

We follow the Stiko’s recommendations, but of course the nurses and the elderly are probably the first to turn around and get the vaccination doses right away.

When do the vaccinations start in NRW?

I don’t speculate about a time. Ema is responsible for approval. It is clear that when the approved vaccine arrives in North Rhine-Westphalia, we will vaccinate it as soon as possible.

Jens Spahn said in a Chillreport interview recently that one to two million people could be vaccinated as of January.

When that happens, I think we can be quite satisfied. I’m setting up my state so we can start vaccinations as soon as the vaccine is available. Incidentally, I think it is correct that the approval of the vaccine is not influenced politically.

Why?

For a high level of acceptance of the vaccination, approval must come from an independent, scientific body – and not under pressure from politicians. Otherwise, many would probably suspect that something has gone wrong.

Yet many citizens are still critical of the vaccination and have concerns. How do you deal with it?

Everyone has to make this decision themselves. And of course we have to train people, which is also going well. There will be campaigns, and if the first people are largely vaccinated quickly, that can also serve as a good example. And people with pre-existing conditions will then talk to their doctor to be sure.

Is federalism an advantage in this crisis?

In short: yes. On the other hand, with the new lockdown, it is now also important that things are not open in one state and closed in another. With vaccination, the benefit is obvious: every district administrator and every mayor has the political responsibility to ensure that his vaccination center runs smoothly. Everyone can keep an eye on their own center, the focus is clear. And that is good.

Mr Laumann, thank you for speaking to us.

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