EXPLAINED: How Germany’s states are arranging Covid-19 vaccinations

There are more than 83 million people in Germany. And everyone is being offered a vaccination against coronavirus. Elderly people are first in line – but how does it work in practice in different states?

EXPLAINED: How Germany's states are arranging Covid-19 vaccinations
Elderly people queuing outside the vaccination centre in the Treptow Arena in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

What's the latest?

Germany is aiming to speed up the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations, after a slow start.

Care home residents and staff were first in line for the jab. Now people over 80 outside of care homes are starting to receive appointments.

According to the Robert Koch Institute's latest report dated January 10th, 532,878 people have received their first jab so far in Germany. Two doses of the vaccine are administered to each person in total.

In some states, vaccination centres have now opened their doors. But how do people know when they're eligible?

A survey by DPA found federal states are taking different approaches. Our overview shows the process so far, and gives you an idea of how they will likely be rolled out to other sections of the population in the coming months.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, letters are to be sent to people over 80 from the third week of January. According to the health ministry, the letter shares the start date for vaccinations for this target group (early February) and that they will be given out at vaccination centres.

It explains the procedure from making an appointment via the hotline 116 117, to how the second vaccination works.

People who can't manage to get to a centre will have to wait for now.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to improve Covid-19 vaccine rollout in January

“If a trip to a vaccination centre is not possible, we recommend waiting until a vaccine is available that can be given at home or by general practitioners,” a ministry spokeswoman said.

In Hesse, several vaccination centres will open on January 19th. People over 80 are to be contacted by authorities. There are plans for mobile vaccination teams to travel to those who can't leave their homes.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, vaccination centres have been open since Thursday. Appointments can be made for people over 80. People with mobility issues can be vaccinated at home by their family doctor – if and when enough vaccine doses are available.

The government appealed to citizens to drive people to the centre who cannot manage on their own. If this is not possible, those affected should check with their health insurer on whether they can get their taxi fare covered.

In Saarland, vaccinations have been possible in centres since the end of December. Those with mobility problems are to be vaccinated at home as soon as transportable vaccines are available.

In Hamburg, people over 80 who live at home can now book appointments for vaccination online and by phone. In the coming week, they will also receive a letter from the health authority informing them of the vaccination option. People will have to organise their own travel to the vaccination centre.

A person at a Berlin vaccination centre. Photo: DPA

In Lower Saxony, it will probably take until the beginning of February for people over 80 to be vaccinated. Those affected are to be contacted and informed about vaccination possibilities and appointments can be made via a hotline and online portal.

To enable the elderly to get to the vaccination centres, separate bus routes are to be set up or existing routes extended if necessary. Elderly people can also make use of special/medical transport. The costs are to be covered in individual cases.

In Saxony, vaccination centres will open from Monday. A platform for registration will then go online. From the middle of next week, it will also be possible to register by telephone. People over 80 must make their way to the vaccination centre themselves.

In Baden-Württemberg, elderly people who do not live in care homes can register for a vaccination appointment – via the phone number 116 117 or the website

The journey to the vaccination centre must be organised privately.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany will roll out Covid-19 vaccinations

In Schleswig-Holstein, the vaccination centres have been open since January 4th. Registration for vaccination is possible by phone or online at

Officials are discussing how to improve train and bus connections to vaccination centres. Under certain circumstances, the transport costs can be covered by statutory health insurance.

In Berlin, invitations for jabs are being sent out to people over 80. They can make an appointment at a vaccination centre via a hotline. For the elderly, the state pays the taxi fare for the outward and return journey. Those who cannot leave their homes can be vaccinated by a mobile team when it's available.

In Bavaria, appointments for people over 80 are being organised now. They should receive a letter with information about the vaccination and how to make an appointment.

According to the government, if eligible people have mobility problems and do not live in a care home, they can also make use of mobile vaccination teams. Bavaria is also looking into the use of vaccination buses that pick up people from their homes.

In Thuringia, those over 80 can book vaccination appointments through the online portal or by calling the hotline 03643 495 0490.

The first vaccination centres are scheduled to open on January 13th. Those in need of care who live at home and are immobile will have to wait for the time being, according to the health ministry. People will have to organise their own travel to the vaccination centres.

In Bremen, those eligible for vaccination will receive a letter. At the moment it is unclear when people over 80 will receive their jabs. Authorities are looking into whether special transport will be arranged. 

In Brandenburg, people over 80 can register for vaccination appointments through the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KVBB). The KVBB is in discussion with the districts on the question of how the very old can get to the vaccination centres.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the first letters are currently being sent out to people over 80. Anyone who receives a letter can contact a call centre to make an appointment. For those who can't manage to get to vaccination centres, alternative options are being discussed.

In Saxony-Anhalt, people over 80 are to be vaccinated in centres from Monday. The first vaccination centres offer appointments by phone at 116 117 or online at

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German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

The Covid pandemic is continuing to cause problems around Germany, with concerns that the number of patients needing treatment will rise in the coming weeks.

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

In its weekly Covid report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said that confirmed infections appeared to be rising in some German states, and falling in others.

But experts warned that the situation remained tense, with many infections not reported. 

Therefore, in the coming weeks, “hospitalisations, an increase in intensive care treatment and deaths are to be expected, especially among the elderly”, said the RKI.

People over the age of 80 “continue to be most affected by severe courses of the disease”, the experts said in their report. 

The incidence of infections is continuing to rise for this age group, and the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in medical treatment facilities as well as in old people’s and nursing homes is going up.

READ ALSO: Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

The number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising slightly. In the previous week, the number was reported to be around 1,330. And on Thursday July 28th, 1,550 people were in ICUs in Germany with 484 receiving ventilation treatment, according to the DIVI intensive care register. 

The number of deaths in connection with the virus is currently around just over 400 per week. The RKI says this trend is a plateau.

When it comes to the overall picture of Covid in Germany, the RKI said there was a “sideways movement rather than a decreasing trend”.

Last week, the nationwide 7-day incidence decreased slightly compared to the previous week. The overall picture shows falling incidences in most western German states and Berlin, with incidences still rising slightly in the other eastern German states and Bavaria.

The RKI estimates there’s been a total of 800,000 to 1.5 million people with Covid (who also have symptoms) in the past week alone in Germany.

Last week experts warned that they expected the Covid situation to get worse in the coming weeks as many schools in Germany return after the summer break.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse

The Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which has dominated in Germany since mid-June, has almost completely displaced other variants. It accounts for 89 percent of samples in the past week, the RKI said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people against underestimating getting Covid again.

The SPD politician pointed out that it was very easy to become infected with BA.5 – even for those who were infected with a previous type.

He warned that many could become seriously ill or die, plus there’s the risk of picking up Long Covid.

“Therefore, we have to solve the problem not by constant infection, but by better vaccines,” Lauterbach said.

‘Call things as they are’

Lauterbach, meanwhile, defended himself against his choice of words when describing the possibility of a new dangerous Covid variant emerging in autumn. 

In an interview with Bild newspaper in April he said: “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omicron variant that is as deadly as Delta – that would be an absolute killer variant.”

He was slammed for his dramatic choice of words. 

This week Lauterbach said: “I use few vocabulary that is apocalyptic. But sometimes you have to call things as they are.”

If there were a virus that linked the contagion of the BA.5 variant with the severe course of a Delta variant, “that would be a killer variant”, he maintained.

But he stressed that he had “not said that such a variant is definitely coming, but that we have to be prepared for such a variant”.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab