BERLIN - It will take until 2022 to vaccinate the whole population of Germany against COVID-19 due to capacity limits, according to the head of an expert panel that will help decide in which order people should receive the vaccine. "If you can administer shots on 150,000 to 200,000 people a day, so on five or six days a week -- assuming vaccines are available and people are willing to be vaccinated -- then you can calculate how long it will take," Thomas Mertens, head of STIKO, Germany's expert panel on vaccine use, told Rheinische Post. "Then you would need 100 days to vaccinate 15 million people," he said, according to a summary of an interview to be published by the daily paper on Thursday. Germany is rushing to prepare vaccination centres across the country so it can start offering shots quickly once a vaccine has been approved in Europe. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are in a tight race to launch their COVID-19 vaccines after both applied for emergency European Union approval this week, though there was uncertainty over whether a rollout could begin this year. Britain approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe to become the West's first country to formally endorse a shot it said should reach the most vulnerable people early next week. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that 60% to 70% of the population would need to acquire immunity, either via a COVID-19 vaccine or through infection, in order for the government to lift restrictions such as limits on private gatherings. Vaccination will not be mandatory in Germany. REUTERS
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