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COVID-19 vaccine will be a game changer, says top German economist

BERLIN (Reuters) - The availability of a vaccine against the coronavirus would be a game changer for Germany’s economy, boosting growth significantly, the head of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Customers wait in line after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown has been eased around the country and companies open some of its stores, in Munich, Germany, May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

“An effective vaccine with few side effects changes everything,” Gabriel Felbermayr told Reuters.

An aggressive second wave of infections and a new partial lockdown to slow the spread of the disease have clouded the growth outlook in Germany.

Germany has closed bars, restaurants, cinemas and gyms for a month until the end of November. Schools and shops remain open under certain conditions.

Felbermayr said if, in a first step, a vaccine could protect vulnerable groups of people, many cultural activities could resume and restaurants and hotels could re-open. It would be possible to ease restrictions as much as over the summer, he said.

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Once 50-60% of the German population are vaccinated, all restrictions could be lifted, Felbermayr said.

Pfizer PFE.N said on Monday the experimental vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech 22UAy.F was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, based on initial data from a large study, lifting hopes around the globe.

The IfW expects per capita income in Germany to grow by 4-5% once the pandemic can be reined in, which it forecasts to happen from spring next year.

That assumption now seems to be increasingly realistic, according to Felbermayr.

“A precondition is that the vaccine can actually be produced and administered to many hundreds of million people worldwide,” he said.

Reporting by Rene Wagner, writing by Kirsti Knolle, editing by Ed Osmond