It will be a while before people in the district of Altötting go swimming again instead of getting vaccinated in the district indoor pool. The vaccination center has been located there to date, the swimming pools have been built over them, and there is a test station in the cabin area. According to the cabinet decision, Bavaria’s vaccination centers will close at the end of the year, what happens to the rooms? In Altötting, subsequent use is obvious. “The district indoor pool will be upgraded after the end of the year,” says a spokesman for the district office, and in the medium term it should reopen as a pool.
In many places in Bavaria it is now going like this – the planned dismantling of vaccination centers for the original purpose of the buildings. Example of the city and district of Bayreuth: The station at the Red Cross can use this for itself again, the areas of an event hall and a gym intended for vaccination are to be used again by artists and athletes.
At the end of October, the state government decided to completely transfer the corona vaccinations to the standard care of doctors from January 2023; company doctors and pharmacies also vaccinate. The centers – currently there are 80 – will be closed at the end of December. These “did us an invaluable service in the fight against the corona pandemic for two years,” said Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU). They would have “made a quick, comprehensive and low-threshold vaccination possible, especially in the initial phase”.
Now the situation is different, the vaccination by resident doctors has been “experienced for a long time”. In addition, the federal ordinance will probably expire at the end of the year, which means that the legal basis and co-financing will no longer apply. Holetschek put the costs for the centers in Bavaria since autumn 2020 at more than one billion euros; half of that came from the federal government. The minister stressed that it was money well spent. A total of 28.5 million vaccinations have been administered so far, every second in the centers.
Before the cabinet decision, the Bavarian Association of General Practitioners and the Association of Paediatricians had called for the centers to be abandoned. The “parallel structure subsidized with tax money” is too expensive and “useless in the foreseeable future”. At the beginning of the pandemic, the centers would have made sense, “at that time we had to deal with an onslaught of people wanting to be vaccinated”. Today, patients are only vaccinated after thorough consultation – trust in the family doctor or pediatrician plays a role here, and the anonymity of the centers does not do that. In fact: Many vaccination centers have been reporting for a long time that on some days only a handful or a dozen people come, that the employees often “twiddle their thumbs”.
There is no plan B, i.e. keeping rooms available as a precaution, as the Ministry of Health informed the SZ on request. In January, which is considered a transitional month, the vaccination centers have to be dismantled. Dismantling measures are also possible at the beginning of December if local availability allows. Inquiries in numerous districts show that the buildings are often restored to their former function. Which in turn illustrates the extent to which the centers were improvised at the time. Other municipalities have rented properties, such as the district of Miesbach, a commercial building in the community of Hausham. “The lease only ran until the end of the year anyway,” says a spokeswoman – tradesmen for the dismantling have already been commissioned. In the Tirschenreuth district, vaccinations are carried out in a former bicycle shop on the market square, where the lease is terminated. The district of Augsburg is doing the same with a rented commercial property in Bobingen.
In Bavaria, 75.1 percent of people have been vaccinated twice
“The closure of the vaccination centers does not mean the end of the pandemic,” said Holetschek recently during a visit to the Munich vaccination center. “I would be happy if as many people as possible updated their vaccination status before the end of the year, because that is the best prevention for the approaching winter for each individual.” According to the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Vaccination, three vaccinations are the standard for everyone. And since October, the booster has been necessary for a formally complete vaccination protection – although for many this is hardly relevant in practice, access rules according to the G-principle no longer exist. A fourth vaccination is recommended from the age of 60 and for younger people at risk of serious illnesses, as well as for medical staff and residents of care facilities.
According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 75.1 percent of people in Bavaria are vaccinated twice, and the value has been stagnating for months. 59.1 percent received a booster, 9.6 percent a second refresher. Here Bavaria ranks in the lower third of the states, in Schleswig-Holstein 70 percent are boosted. “In the last few months, the willingness to vaccinate has unfortunately decreased noticeably,” says the ministry.
The Free State has been promoting a refresher campaign since August, for example on large billboards. The Greens MP Christina Haubrich notes that there is a contrast between the campaign and some statements by the state government. Covid-19 is now “de facto similar to the flu,” Prime Minister Markus Söder recently said at the CSU party conference. For Haubrich, Corona is “still not a harmless disease and poses a danger to vulnerable groups”. The current situation is “no reason to panic, but also not to play it down”. Ruth Waldmann (SPD) thinks that the vaccinations can be managed well by the doctors, the centers “cost insane money”. However, she complains that the state parliament was not involved in the decision.
The often elderly residents of nursing homes are making slow progress – their vaccinations are managed by the Free State through a system of officers. According to a new country report by the RKI, 85 percent of this group have been boosted, but only 35 percent have the second refresher. Although the strongest increase in all vaccination statistics can be seen here: In the RKI monitoring from August, the fourth injection had only 26 percent.