The Role of Vaccination Centers in a National Mass Immunization Campaign—Policymaker Insights from the German COVID-19 Pandemic Vaccine Roll-Out
During the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Germany, like other high-income countries, introduced mass vaccination centers for administering vaccinations. This qualitative study aimed to examine the role that these novel, temporary government healthcare structures played in a mass immunization roll-out and how they can be optimally deployed. In addition, learnings for general emergency preparedness were explored. A total of 27 high-level policymakers responsible for planning and implementing the COVID vaccination campaign at the national and state level in Germany were interviewed in May and June 2022. The semi-structured interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Interviewees indicated that mass vaccination structures played an essential role with respect to controllability, throughput, accessibility and openness in line with the key success criteria vaccination coverage, speed and accessibility. In contrast to the regular vaccination structures (private medical practices and occupational health services), public administration has direct authority over mass vaccination centers, allowing for reliable vaccine access prioritization and documentation. The deployment of vaccination centers should be guided by vaccine availability and demand, and vaccine requirements related to logistics, as well as local capacities, i.e., public-health-service strength and the physician density, to ensure effective, timely and equitable access. Improvements to the capacity use, scalability and flexibility of governmental vaccination structures are warranted for future pandemics.