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Corona in Cologne: flood of vaccination appointments - family doctors vaccinate at the limit

Vaccination appointments are very popular in Cologne, medical practices are reaching their limits. There is a flood of vaccination appointments to deal with - unchecking vaccination prioritization could make matters worse.

Since April, general practitioners have also been allowed to vaccinate people against the corona virus in Germany. The immense amount of inquiries pushes many practices in Cologne to their limits: the phones no longer stand still, the e-mail inbox fills up every minute. Many general practitioners' practices already state on their websites that further inquiries should not be made and that no patients from outside the practice can be vaccinated.

"It really is sheer madness," says Vera Soditt, who runs a group practice in Lindenthal together with three other doctors. She and her colleagues vaccinate over 200 doses of Astrazeneca and Biontech every Wednesday - and not only to patients who have been coming to their practice for a long time.

The allocation of such an amount of vaccination doses cannot be accomplished without the support of employees and voluntary helpers: While the doctors are vaccinating, they take care of the paperwork. Soditt also reports that five people would work for a vaccination. Otherwise the effort would not be possible.

"It feels good to do something about the pandemic"

"The rush is really big, the patients sometimes think that the telephone system is broken because it keeps ringing," says Soditt. In addition, the practice receives up to 200 e-mails per afternoon, 90 percent of which are requests for a vaccination appointment. This means overtime for the doctors - but you are happy to accept that in order to help fight the pandemic. "Despite all the work, it is really fun to vaccinate so many people," explains Vera Soditt, who has been working as a family doctor since 1994: "We are actively doing something against the pandemic and people are very happy and grateful for our commitment."

Nevertheless, there are also depressing moments: "The sad side of this is that we have to cancel many people. We already vaccinate as much as we can, but having to cancel someone hurts in the heart."
For example, people would also ring the doorbell at the practice who do not have a vaccination appointment and still ask for a vaccination: "It breaks your heart that we cannot vaccinate more than we already do."

A pack of Astrazeneca vaccine (symbolic picture): The corona vaccine is still in short supply. (Source: Beautiful Sports / imago images)

Even bigger crowds expected in June

Finally, the general practitioners still adhere to the prioritization that provides for the vaccination of certain groups of people and professions. From June 7th, however, the prioritization is to be lifted. Health Minister Jens Spahn announced this last Monday. Then it should not only be possible to vaccinate people who belong to a corresponding prioritization group, but everyone who wants to. However, so that the demand does not exceed the supply, the necessary amount of vaccine must first be available.

"Basically, everyone has the same problem," explains Eckhard Dierlich, the chief vaccine surgeon from Cologne: "The allocation of vaccines is not constant and therefore the general practitioners all have long waiting lists in the event that the amount of vaccine that meets the demand suddenly becomes available. "

Demand is also high in the vaccination center

As Dierlich further explains, there is fundamentally the optimism that a "flood of vaccines" will come in June. "But the experience of the last few months has shown that as long as you don't have the vaccine in the refrigerator, you don't believe anything." While general practitioners like Vera Soditt and her colleagues are vaccinating to the limit, the Cologne vaccination center is still busy. Around 6,000 people per day would also be vaccinated on the grounds of the trade fair in Deutz - so things are moving forward in Cologne.

For general practitioners and vaccinators, however, the lifting of the prioritization groups in June will mean an even bigger rush: "Some colleagues say that this will be the end because people will then really run into our practices," says Soditt. She and the other doctors in the group practice remain confident and want to continue as they have been doing since the start of the vaccination campaign: vaccinate as many people as possible.

After all, every vaccinated person is also a benefit for society: "We are also interested in relieving the intensive care units through our work," explains Soditt. "We want to show the doctors, nurses and nurses: You are not alone, we fight for you in our practice." And for this, the doctors in Lindenthal happily accept overtime and the phones ringing all the time.