Vaccine effect: Covid-19 hospital admission rate falls in Germany

As Germany's elderly population is inoculated against Covid-19, the rate of hospital admissions is falling, new figures show. But younger age groups are still seriously affected.

Vaccine effect: Covid-19 hospital admission rate falls in Germany
A prison officer being vaccinated in Saxony-Anhalt on April 27th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

According to data from Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the proportion of hospital admissions for patients with Covid-19 has not increased since the end of February.

It has remained at seven to eight percent of the reported number of people with Covid-19 – and has even fallen to a current low of four percent.

Upon request, the RKI said it can’t be ruled out that subsequent reports may push this percentage up slightly. However, it’s clear that the situation is improving compared to previous waves.

By way of comparison: at the peak of the first wave, the proportion of hospital admissions was up to 20 percent of the number of people with Covid-19 reported at that time, and up to 12 percent at the height of the second wave in December.

According to health experts, this proportion went down in winter due to lessons learned from spring 2020, and the progress in helping people avoid severe courses of the disease.

Elderly Covid cases significantly down due to vaccination

Coronavirus infections in the over-80s have declined considerably compared to the second wave, the RKI says.

The weekly incidences among 80 to 90-year-olds were between 60 and 74 per 100,000 inhabitants – significantly lower than in all other age groups.

On Thursday, for example, the proportion of the 80 plus age group in new Covid cases was just 2.5 percent.

This can only be explained by the effect of vaccination in this age group, the RKI said. Since this group used to account for the majority of hospital coronavirus cases, the current much lower overall hospitalisation rate can also be attributed to the vaccine effect.

It comes after Germany scored a major achievement this week after giving out more than a million Covid-19 jabs on Wednesday – a European first.

READ ALSO: Germany breaks European record by giving a million Covid jabs in one day

In all, 21.6 million people or 25.9 percent of the population in Germany have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The proportion of people who are dying is also going down. About 2.45 percent of those infected have died so far. That is the lowest value since January 25th. The reason for the downward trend is probably the falling proportion of the very old among the cases.

Younger age groups receiving hospital treatment

In the younger age groups (35 to 59 year-olds), however, at least as many patients were hospitalised in the third wave as in the second.

And they have usually had to stay in hospitals longer than before, especially if they were treated in intensive care units.

According to the register of intensive care physicians and the RKI, about 5,000 people are still in intensive care, and more than half (58 percent) are receiving ventilation.

Intensive care doctors say their patients are becoming “younger and younger” compared to previous waves – and warn that they are still facing major pressure.

READ ALSO: ‘Third wave is clearly upon us’: German ICU wards struggle as younger people fill beds

Germany on Friday reported 24,329 Covid cases within 24 hours and 306 deaths. The number of cases per 100,000 residents in seven days fell to 153.4 , down from 154.9 on Thursday. This could be the first signs of a downward trend.

On Wednesday the RKI said the 7-day incidence was 160.6; and a week earlier it was 161.1.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.