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VACCINE

Covid-19 vaccine in Germany: ‘Protecting the most vulnerable is first goal’

Germany's Health Minister has revealed how the country will start coronavirus vaccinations after Christmas.

Covid-19 vaccine in Germany: 'Protecting the most vulnerable is first goal'
Jens Spahn on Friday. Photo: DPA

Priority must be given to those who need the vaccine most, Spahn said during a press conference on Friday.

It  means elderly people in care facilities across Germany are to be given the vaccination first. “In doing so, we will first offer protection to those who also particularly need it,” Spahn said.

Doctors and nurses in clinics will also be among the first to receive the vaccine in Germany. But in the first few days, he said, vaccinations will be given out first and foremost in nursing homes.

The minister urged other members of the population to be patient.

“I ask you to wait until it is your turn as well,” he said. “We will start first with the elderly, the very old, those who care for them and look after them, in order to protect precisely those who are particularly vulnerable.”

Vaccinations are expected to begin on December 27th. In a statement on Wednesday, Germany's 16 state-level health ministers said Spahn had announced “the expected approval and supply of the BioNTech vaccine” next week, with distribution beginning shortly before year's end.

READ ALSO: Germany aims to begin vaccinations on December 27th

The vaccination regulations in Germany will be adapted if additional doses become available.

Spahn also reacted to criticism that the prioritisation of the elderly expressed a lack of appreciation for nursing staff.

“This is not a question of appreciation, but of solidarity,” Spahn stressed. The people to be vaccinated first can no longer protect themselves and therefore have priority, he added. 

Spahn said he was counting on everyone to understand the delicate situation.

One in two deaths from or with coronavirus involve people over 80, he said. “Protecting the most vulnerable is the first goal of our vaccination campaign,” said Spahn. This will take one to two months, he added. Only then can the programme be broadened out to others.

The transition between vaccinations for the different priority levels will be smooth, said Spahn. He plans to discuss with the federal states when the next steps can be taken.

According to Spahn, 11 to 13 million vaccine doses will be available in the first quarter, possibly more because of the expected approval of additional vaccines. Germany has around 83 million people.

 

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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