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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel and Putin discuss possible joint Covid-19 vaccine production

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the possibility of jointly producing coronavirus vaccines in a phone call, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Merkel and Putin discuss possible joint Covid-19 vaccine production
Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

“Issues of cooperation in combating the coronavirus pandemic were discussed with an emphasis on the possible prospects for joint production of vaccines,”
the Kremlin said in a statement.

The Kremlin added that an agreement was reached to “continue contacts on the issue” between the two countries’ health ministries and specialised agencies.

Both Russia and Germany have recently started mass vaccination drives at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus and avoid reimposing nationwide lockdowns.

While Germany is using the vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and the Mainz-based company BioNtech, Russia has put into mass circulation its homemade jab — Sputnik V.

READ ALSO: BioNTech: How the German firm is leading the Covid-19 vaccine race

Russia announced the registration of Sputnik — named after the Soviet-era satellite — in August, before the start of large-scale clinical trials, raising concerns over the fast-tracked procedure.

Some critics have described it as a tool to bolster Russia’s geopolitical influence.

Russia started a mass vaccination drive in early December, making the jab first available to high-risk groups including medics, teachers and the elderly.

Alexander Gintsburg, the director of the state-run Gamaleya research centre that developed Sputnik, on Tuesday said that over 1 million people in Russia have received the jab so far.

Moscow also sent batches of its vaccine to Belarus, Serbia and Argentina and announced that 2.6 million doses will be supplied to Bolivia but acknowledged that it was struggling with production capacity.

In another sign of recognition for the Sputnik jab that has been viewed with scepticism by the West, British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca in December announced a clinical trial programme that would use a combination of its vaccine and the Russian one.

Both use the adenovirus vectors, although it remains unclear when these tests will go ahead.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Germany's federal vaccine agency says that people who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should no longer be classed as being fully vaccinated.

People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

People who’ve had J&J, sometimes known as Janssen, used to have full vaccination status after a single dose of the vaccine. 

Since January 15th, however, a single dose of J&J should no longer count as full vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s vaccine authority. 

In autumn last year the German government began recommending a second mRNA jab for people who’d had J&J – which many people thought was the booster vaccination. 

However, according to the PEI’s update on proof of vaccination within the Covid Protective Measures Exemption Ordinance and the Coronavirus Entry Ordinance, the second shot is needed to complete ‘basic immunisation’.

It is unclear at this stage if it means that people returning or coming to Germany from abroad with only one shot of J&J will be counted as partially vaccinated and therefore need to present tests or face other forms of barriers to entry. 

We are also looking into what this means for the various health pass rules in states, such as the 3G rules for transport. 

The Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German-language medical magazine, said: “Special rules according to which one dose was recognised as a complete vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are no longer applicable.”

The Local has contacted the German Health Ministry for clarification on what this means for those affected. 

According to the latest government figures, 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany so far in the vaccination campaign. 

The news will come as a shock to those who don’t know that they need another jab, or haven’t got round to getting their second vaccine yet. 

All other jabs – such as BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – already require two jabs. 

People in Germany are seen as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. 

What about boosters?

As The Local Germany has been reporting, the German government said in December that people who’ve had J&J need a third shot three months after their second dose to be considered boosted.

A German Health Ministry spokesman told us last week that due to more vaccination breakthrough infections affecting people who’ve had the J&J vaccine, extra protection was needed.

“Therefore, after completion of the basic immunisation as recommended by STIKO, i.e. after administration of two vaccine doses (preferably 1x J&J + 1x mRNA), following the current recommendation of the STIKO, a further booster vaccination can subsequently be administered with a minimum interval of a further three months, as with the other approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Health Ministry spokesman said. 

However, there has been much confusion on this front because some states have been accepting J&J and another shot as being boosted, while others haven’t.

READ ALSO:

It is unclear if the new regulation will mean that states will all have to only accept J&J and two shots as being boosted. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, for instance, updated its regulations on January 16th and now requires that people who’ve had J&J and one shot have another jab to be boosted. 

Having a booster shot in Germany means that you do not have to take a Covid-19 test if you’re entering a venue, such as a restaurant or cafe, under the 2G-plus rules.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that proof of complete vaccination protection against Covid takes into account “the current state of medical science”. 

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