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In Berlin, a former airport to get vaccinated

In front of the old Tegel airport, the orange sign of an airline still launches a “Welcome” to travelers, but soon thousands of candidates for vaccination against covid-19 are expected to flock here.

In front of the old Tegel airport, the orange sign of an airline still launches a “Welcome” to travelers, but soon thousands of candidates for vaccination against covid-19 are expected to flock here.

(AFP) – It did not take long for the former Terminal C of the platform, closed in early November, to find a new vocation: by mid-December, it will become a large coronavirus vaccination center.

Germany expects to have the vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 and is preparing for a large-scale operation to set up around sixty centers of the same type across the country, supplemented by mobile teams. The federal state will ensure the purchase and delivery of the doses, the regional states will provide syringes, needles, dressings and antiseptic lotions.

The latter must also designate the places where these large-scale vaccinations will be held: fair halls, concert halls or skating rinks and velodrome. In Tegel, “we have to vaccinate 3,000 to 4,000 people a day,” Albrecht Broemme told AFP, in charge of the municipality to set up the infrastructure.

But if the authorities think big, vaccination will not be mandatory, insisted the Minister of Health, Jens Spahn. Berlin has also chosen the old Tempelhof airport which housed a home for asylum seekers during the refugee “crisis”.

Lego box

With six centers for a huge capital, the municipality intends to vaccinate “20,000 people per day”, according to Berlin’s health officer, Dilek Kalayci. It will be “a huge challenge”, she admits, with the priority objective of vaccinating the elderly or those particularly exposed to the virus, such as nursing staff.

These centers will have to provide vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, including weekends. Albrecht Broemme, a former firefighter, has already weighed everything with a trebuchet thanks … to a box of Lego. With elements of various colors, he built a mini-vaccination station with a registration desk and circulation lanes. “I thought about a system while thinking (…) of the necessary spaces so as not to create a traffic jam”, details the sixty-year-old.

Any visitor will have to follow a circuit, from identity verification to the actual vaccination which “will only last two minutes” and will be “seated on a chair” in a booth. The injection will be preceded by a medical consultation and, at the end of the chain, “a waiting room” will be there to check that the whole operation has gone well.

“We imagine that all this will take an hour,” assures this expert in disaster situations as the roar of trucks and utilities echoing in and out of the airport compound.

Huge needs

Although the development work on Terminal C has not yet started, its access to the public is now prevented by metal gates and a zealous security service. For the time being, the city’s health services are trying to recruit staff. The needs are enormous: doctors, nursing staff authorized to vaccinate, logistics and support staff.

Security guards will also be hired in case, for example, anti-vaccination activists try to block access to the building, broemme enumerates. In a country which is cruelly suffering from a lack of medical personnel, the authorities should solicit all the goodwill: retired nurses, medical students, unemployed flight attendants.

In Berlin, 200 to 250 people will work in each vaccination center. “We have a lot of applications, people who say ‘I would like to participate'” in this exceptional adventure, enthuses the manager, already in charge in the spring of setting up a field hospital for covid-19 patients. Germany will keep its restaurants, sports and cultural facilities closed until the beginning of January to bring down the level of infections still considered “far too high” by the government.

The number of new daily contaminations has stabilized there at around 15,000 to 20,000 for several days. This Friday, the country exceeded the mark of one million contaminations. To avoid any transmission of the virus, very strict health instructions will be imposed. “It would be a nightmare for me if people were infected by coming to be vaccinated”, admits Albrecht Broemme.


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