Just as the U.S. is reopening its borders to the world for non-essential travel, Europe appears to be the global epicenter of COVID-19. Currently, Germany and Austria have the highest rates among all western European countries.
Just over a year ago, Germany’s BioNTech announced it had developed the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine; partnering with Pfizer for trials, production and distribution. On November 9, 2020, a joint announcement by BioNTech and Pfizer, indicated 43,500 people in six countries had received a test vaccine against COVID-19 with a 90% effectiveness rate. After a year of preventive measures and push for herd immunity through vaccination, Germany is suffering more than ever and more than any other nation in western Europe.
On Friday, Germany broke a record with 37,000 new cases in 24 hours. Over the weekend, new COVID cases incident rate per 100,000 people in Germany in the last seven days broke 300 for the first time.
“Our vaccination rate is still under 75% of the German population,” said Dr. Christine Falk, president of the German Society for Immunology. Falk states vaccine significantly lower the risk of serious illness and death, but it does not fully protect against infection. Even so, lax distancing measure combined with a more infectious delta variant and seasonal effects are causing the unvaccinated to fill 87% of all German hospitalizations.
German state health ministers are calling to extend state of emergency as cases soar. German media is now reporting that overburdened intensive care units may need to move patients between regions to find beds in coming weeks. Spiegel newspaper is reporting the German army has deployed 630 personnel and is preparing to mobilize 12,000 more by Christmas to assist overrun healthcare services.
The German government is discussing new pandemic measures as the current state of emergency will expire on November 25. Over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for stronger enforcement of rules requiring a negative test, vaccination, or proof of recovery. Merkel stated, “Difficult weeks lie ahead of us, and you can see that I am very worried, I urgently ask everyone who has not yet been vaccinated: please reconsider.”
So why is any of this importance to the United States?
With 69% of the population fully vaccinated a few weeks ago, Germany thought they were through the pandemic. However, they did not reach their 75% immunization goal. The U.S. just opened up our borders for non-essential travel from Europe and other nations with a 59% fully-vaccinated status. The average infection rate in the U.S. is slightly rising daily. Time reported yesterday that this rise is ill-timed as millions of Americans prepare for Thanksgiving gatherings and that a fifth wave is possible. The stakes are high as the pandemic has a marked impact on national security. In the event of another wave, it’s possible that either the heat will get turned up even more on the vaccine mandate or more remote work and travel restrictions will return for the cleared industry.