UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS
By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – Germany has stepped up its COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign as the country braces for a new wave of the pandemic due to the highly infectious omicron variant.
Health authorities confirmed on Friday that 29 million booster shots have been administered so far across the country, and nearly 33 million will be available for everybody in the next three weeks.
"We have chosen the path of 'booster vaccinations at record speed' to reduce deaths and severe illness from omicron," Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Twitter.
"Booster vaccine lowers the risk. Administering as many booster vaccinations as possible remains to be our strategy," he added.
The government purchased 30 million doses of the Moderna jab, as well as 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the booster campaign, according to the Health Ministry.
Nearly 74% of Germany’s population of 83 million has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 36% has received a booster shot.
Experts believed booster shots are necessary against the omicron variant, as immunity from the initial doses starts wearing off over time.
European countries, including the UK, France and Spain, have registered record coronavirus cases this week, fueled by the new omicron variant.
Germany's Robert Koch Institute on Friday reported 35,431 new daily coronavirus infections and 370 fatalities.
Health authorities have so far reported 3,198 omicron cases in Germany, but experts say the actual number could be much higher, as the country sequences only a small proportion of positive tests.
At least one person has died after testing positive for omicron and 48 patients have received treatment at hospitals, according to the latest official data.