Heroes to zeros: how German perfectionism wrecked its Covid vaccine drive

The same thoroughness that made Angela Merkel’s government a pandemic role model is now holding it back.

In December, two weeks before the European Medicines Agency authorised the first vaccine against Covid-19 for use across the European Union, Berlin unveiled a plan to rocket-fuel its immunisation drive with German precision engineering. Jabs would be mass-administered in purpose-built vaccination centres where patients could be shuttled through queuing lanes like cars through a car wash.

Merkel faults German perfectionism

March 2021. Yahoo News. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed her country’s difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic — from the slow vaccine rollout to the back-and-forth over lockdown rules — partly on “a tendency toward perfectionism” and called for greater flexibility to tackle the latest surge in cases.

In an hour-long television interview with public broadcaster ARD late Sunday, Merkel acknowledged that mistakes were made by her government, including on plans for an Easter lockdown, which had to be reversed.


February 2020. Deutsche Welle. Germany has already faced its first coronavirus infections. Officials have remained calm, and border closures or lockdowns are not yet on the horizon. But the country has no specific pandemic plan for COVID-19.

“We assume it can and will have a slight impact on the global economy,” said Germany’s Economics Minister Peter Altmaier. “The extent will depend on how quickly this virus is contained and how quickly the number of infections slows down again.”

Covid: German success thusfar

April 2020 – A look at why Germany has been so successful in dealing with the pandemic, and has been able to keep its coronavirus death rate so low, compared to other nations, with Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister.

The world is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, and some countries are reeling more than others. But Germany seems to be taking the epidemic in its stride with a high number of cases but a low number of deaths, thanks to a number of factors.

In Europe, while Italy and Spain are the worst hit countries with over 100,000 cases each, as of Friday, Germany has recorded 84,794 confirmed cases but has witnessed just 1,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The low mortality rate in Germany, at just over 1%, is far below its neighboring European countries, and this has been put down to Germany’s decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected of having the virus, as opposed to Italy or the U.K.’s decision to only test symptomatic cases.

How Germany lost control of Covid

In mid-2020, Germany was hailed the world’s shining star of coronavirus containment. Now, while countries like the UK and Israel are going back to normalcy, Germany has been under some form of lockdown for over six months. How did Germany, a country known for its efficiency, love of planning and rationality lose control of its COVID-19 response?

Food and obesity

Despite the fact that over 30% of Americans are considered obese, they continue to expect and consume very large portions of food. This is part of a culture that glorifies and celebrates things that are large. Large homes, large cars, and large food portions are made possible by America’s abundant wealth and natural resources and celebrated as a key aspect of American culture. Bigger is better.

McDonald’s revolutionized the restaurant sector by applying an assembly line model to their hamburger restaurant. This process produces food of predictable quality in an efficient manner. In order to be profitable, non-fast food chains like the Cheesecake Factory must quickly produce food products of predictable quality without wasting ingredients or resources such as water and electricity. These restaurants have set up processes that rely upon training low-skilled workers how to create high-quality products by following strict processes.

„Bigger is better“: Many travelers have noted that American food portion sizes are much larger than portions in other countries in Europe and Asia. A medium sized drink or meal in America is the equivalent of a large in many Asian or European countries. Mainstream America tends to value size and price over the quality of a food product. Most fast food chains give customers the option of super-sizing a meal for a small fee ($0.50 – $1.00). Super-sizing increases the apparent value of the meal because it increases the size (and calorie count) for a small sum of money.

Some corners of American society have begun to strive for healthier, more sustainable portion sizes. One notable example is the controversial decision by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to limit soft drink sizes. The law bans the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces and is aimed at curbing obesity and unhealthy habits that ultimately increase medical costs and decrease worker productivity.

Another initiative aimed at encouraging Americans to make better eating choices is the federal law that forces food chains with more than a certain number of store locations to post calorie information on the menu. This law was part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as „Obamacare.“