German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, her spokesman has confirmed on Twitter. The news signals that Merkel continues to back the vaccine, particularly AstraZeneca, despite uncertainties over blood clotting cases.
Merkel, 66, was given the dose at the specially installed vaccination centre in Berlin's former Tempelhof Airport, which is exclusively administering AstraZeneca. Currently, around 3,000 people a day can receive a jab there.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced the news in a tweet:
Merkel said: "I am happy to have received my first vaccination today with AstraZeneca. I thank everyone who is involved in the vaccination campaign — and everyone who gets vaccinated. Vaccination is the key to overcoming the pandemic."
Due to a marginal risk of blood clots, the AstraZeneca vaccine is currently only available to the over-60s in Germany. German officials have made efforts to emphasise their faith in AstraZeneca, with public confidence waning following concerns over several blood clotting cases among younger recipients of the vaccine. Several other countries, including France, Spain and Canada, have imposed similar age restrictions. READ ALSO: Coronavirus: why are Germans refusing the AstraZeneca vaccine?
In recent weeks, the Chancellor had frequently been asked whether she would receive a vaccine, and whether she would choose AstraZeneca. "When it's my turn, I'll get vaccinated, including with AstraZeneca", she said, making her adherence with Germany's strict priority policies regarding vaccine administration clear.
The vaccination queue has been a sensitive issue in Germany, with prominent figures keen to emphasise that they are waiting their turn, following reports of local politicians receiving a vaccine ahead of schedule. Earlier this month, Bernd Wiegand, mayor of Halle in Saxony-Anhalt, was suspended from office after using his privilege as a prominent figure to ‘jump the queue’ to receive the vaccine in January, despite not being in a priority group.
Germany continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, currently facing an aggressive third wave. Amid mounting calls to intensify measures, Merkel proposed an amendment to Germany's Infection Protection Act earlier on Friday. Under the new conditions, the federal government would be able to adopt a more universal approach to implementing lockdowns and curfews across regions with high infection rates.
If passed, the "emergency brake" measures will apply to all federal states, allowing the government to enforce restrictions on any district or city where the seven-day incidence rate of new coronavirus cases rises above 100 per 100,000 for at least three consecutive days.