BERLIN - Germany aims to have the first vulnerable people and caregivers vaccinated against the coronavirus in January, the health minister said on Tuesday, as the European Union's (EU) most populous country battles a second wave. "But it remains true, and we have always said, that the cold winter months, in which we spend more time indoors, will be the harder part. That actually applies until the end of winter," Jens Spahn told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. German authorities are preparing special vaccination centres due to be ready in mid-December even though a vaccine will probably not be available by that time, Spahn added. Health workers will vaccinate people with mobile teams and at vaccination centres since a candidate developed by Biontech and Pfizer needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, Spahn said. He added that he expects more vaccines, which can be administered by general practitioners, in spring or early summer. "Once (the vaccines) are in the normal system, we can manage big numbers," he said. Spahn last month said he expects Germany will get up to 100 million doses of the Biontech-Pfizer vaccine alone. Nurses, doctors, and sick and old people - who have a higher risk of serious infection - will likely get the vaccine first. Germany was widely praised for its response to the first coronavirus wave in spring, but numbers now are stubbornly high despite new distancing measures introduced early last month. Schools remain open but from Tuesday, private gatherings are limited to five people, and fewer people are allowed in shops. The official case tally rose by 13,604 on Tuesday to 1,067,473, while deaths were up 388 to 16,636. "I'm not satisfied at all. The numbers have to go down. There's no doubt about that," Spahn said, asking Germans to further reduce their contacts to curb the spread. REUTERS
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