Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday pleaded with people to get vaccinated without delay to prevent a massive new wave of coronavirus in Germany.

“The benefits of the vaccine are truly great. This is our way out of the pandemic,” Scholz said in his New Year’s message to the nation and tried to address concerns raised by vaccine-hesitant people.

“I know that some people are skeptical. Some are worried that the vaccination could have negative effects,” he said.

“But there are now almost 4 billion people around the world who have received the vaccine. Without major side effects. And countless vaccinated people have become parents of healthy babies,” he added.

The chancellor also urged people to get their booster vaccine as soon as they are eligible to do so.

“This will give you better protection from severe illness if you become infected. Speed is what matters now. We have to move faster than the virus,” he said.

Scholz said Germany administered more than 30 million vaccine doses since mid-November, and will step up vaccination efforts in the first weeks of the new year.

“This is good, but we want to do even better. We want to achieve another 30 million vaccinations by the end of January. This will protect us against omicron,” he said.

The Robert Koch Institute reported 41,240 new daily coronavirus infections and 323 fatalities on Friday, but also noted that the numbers are incomplete due to the holiday reporting irregularities.

German health officials have been warning that the number of omicron cases is doubling every two to three days, and that the new coronavirus strain is capable of causing a massive fifth wave of the pandemic at the beginning of January.

European countries, including the UK, France, Spain, and Italy, have reported record numbers of coronavirus infections this week due to the heavily mutated omicron variant.

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