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VACCINATIONS

Germany to bring forward plan for nationwide freedoms for vaccinated people

The German government is proposing new freedoms for vaccinated people and those who've recovered from Covid-19 - and the regulation looks set to come into force earlier than originally planned.

Germany to bring forward plan for nationwide freedoms for vaccinated people
Hundreds of people queueing for the AstraZeneca vaccine in Schwerin, northern Germany, on April 30th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

Several German states have already started easing restrictions for those who are fully inoculated against coronavirus, as well as for people who have recovered from Covid-19.

But now the German government is planning to push through new regulations to allow for freedoms for these groups of people – that would apply uniformly across the country.

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democrats, told the broadcaster ARD on Sunday evening that he thinks it is realistic that the planned regulation will come into the cabinet on Wednesday, and that the Bundestag and Bundesrat will approve it at the end of the week.

“We have the ambition that we’ll get this approval and that would also be the right course for the rights of the citizens,” he told the programme Report from Berlin.

On Monday, the coronavirus cabinet will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the Christian Democrats, and several ministers to discuss the plans.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) had previously submitted a draft that the federal government planned to vote on internally by “the beginning of the week”.

Under the plans, the fully vaccinated, and people who’ve recovered from Covid, would be able to “enter shops, visit zoos and botanical gardens or use the services of hairdressers and podiatrists without prior testing”.

They also wouldn’t have to stick to curfew rules. Mask and distance requirements would continue to apply to everyone.

IN DETAIL: These are Germany’s planned new freedoms for vaccinated people

Government under pressure from states

It comes after Health Minister Jens Spahn said last week the government aimed to bring in the uniform regulations by the end of May. Several states pushed back, bringing in vaccination rights immediately. This move has clearly put pressure on the government to act faster. 

Saarland’s state premier Tobias Hans said he was pleased to see that “federal plans are now on the table” and wanted to see the nationwide law pushed through his week.

“The extensive restrictions on fundamental rights must not become permanent,” the CDU politician told the newspapers in the Funke media group on Monday.

In addition to Saarland, other states that have already given vaccinated people more freedoms include Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Germany reached a milestone last week when it vaccinated more than a million people in one day. The vaccination campaign has been turbo charged after more supplies of vaccines were delivered this month, and GPs got involved in the rollout.

This will continue in the coming weeks as more specialists – and in-house company doctors – are given the green light to inoculate people against coronavirus.

Some states have also dropped the priority order for receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, meaning all adults can apply for it. This has also given the campaign a boost.

Up to April 30th 26.9 percent of the population had received at least one vaccine dose. About 7.7 percent of the country is fully inoculated against Covid-19.

Vocabulary

Vaccinated people – (die) Geimpfte/(die) Impflingen

Recovered from Covid-19 – von Covid-19 Genesene 

Ambition (der) Ehrgeiz

Restrictions on basic rights – (die) Grundrechtseinschränkungen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

Member comments

  1. Nice for those fully vaccinated, but this will totally negate the Emergency Brake – the ones who want to flaunt the rules will use this to go back to normal; or are the Police etc. going to stop EVERY car that drives during the night curfew, check EVERY gathering in a Park, EVERY House with a bunch of cars pulled up outside? They’ve done a crap job of enforcing that anyway around us, so it’ll be total chaos after this Bill passes.

  2. would someone whose residence is in another EU member state be eligible for a vaccination while on a temporary visit to Germany?

    1. Currently I do not believe that is possible. Each state runs the program in a different way, and as far as I am aware they all check to see that yo are living/working in the state. Also and there are very long registration lines and so its not very predictable when you could get a appointment.

  3. Any idea how to push for an appointment if you believe you are part of some risk group? I would not rather wait until July or so if there’s a possibility to get it sooner somehow.

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NEWSLETTER

Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?

A single vaccine dose has been shown to be largely ineffective against the Delta variant of Covid-19 - so German health experts are considering whether a shorter gap between the first and second dose is needed.

Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?
A sign directs people to the vaccination centre in Berlin's now-defunct Tegel Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Soeren Stache

With the the proportion of Delta variant Covid cases rising in Germany, experts are currently mulling over a new strategy to combat it: shortening the intervals between the first and second dose of the vaccine.

The new approach is being considered in light of the fact that vaccinated people are likely to be protected highly infectious variant – but only if they have had all necessary doses of the vaccine. 

READ ALSO: Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

“The question is not a trivial one,” Thomas Mertens, the head of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), told DPA.

According to the Ulm-based virologist, there are various pros and cons to shortening the gaps between doses.

“We are currently trying to secure the necessary evidence,” he added.

So far, Stiko has been recommending longer intervals between the two vaccinations than the intervals stipulated by regulators when the vaccines were approved. 

There are good reasons for this: with AstraZeneca, for example, evidence suggests that the longer you wait between vaccines, the better immunity you have.

With limited doses of vaccines available – and ongoing supply issues – there is also an argument for providing as many people as possible with the first dose, so that as many people as possible are at least partly protected against the virus.

READ ALSO: ‘Vaccinate quickly’: German states seeing surge in Delta variant Covid cases

For AstraZeneca, the previous advice from the panel of experts at Stiko is to allow twelve weeks to elapse between the first and second dose. For the mRNA vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – the recommended interval is six weeks.

According to the pharmaceutical regulators, however, a faster course would be possible: two BioNTech doses three weeks apart, with Moderna and AstraZeneca given four weeks apart.

In the case of the AstraZeneca vector vaccine, according to the Health Ministry, those wishing to be vaccinated are free to agree the interval individually with doctors within the permitted period of four to twelve weeks.

“A certain distance improves the effectiveness of the vaccine”

Helge Braun (CDU), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, told the Morgenmagazin on Thursday that the government’s main challenge was to offer all over-12s at the least one dose of the vaccine by the end of summer.

READ ALSO: ‘This can be a good summer’: Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid

Regarding the timing of the second dose, the main concern should be effectiveness, he said.

“We just know that a certain distance improves the effectiveness of the vaccination,” he told reporters. 

When pressed on whether shortening the intervals between doses was the advice of the hour, Braun said it wasn’t.

On Twitter, German immunologist Carsten Watzl pointed out that, while cases of Delta were rising as a proportion of infections due to falling infection rates overall, the actual number of infections with Delta was still stable – and may even be declining. 

This means that the longer, 12-week interval for AstraZeneca vaccinations could be still be used as long as people were fully vaccinated by autumn, he said. 

The virologist Christian Drosten has been pointing out for a long time that the first jab is not particularly effective against Delta. 

This is also the view of Watzl, who would like to see the majority of people fully protected in time for a potential fourth wave of the virus. 

“The second vaccination is urgently needed in order to be able to properly ward off the mutations,” he said in a recent interview with the German Press Agency.

“Shortening the current vaccination intervals, especially of BioNTech, of course makes sense in order to achieve complete inoculation as quickly as possible,” said the chief executive of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, on Wednesday.

“The maximum vaccine interval for BioNTech is only justified by the lack of vaccines.”

In Germany, increased shares of the Delta variant, first discovered in India, are now being recorded.

However, the number of cases caused by the mutation has only increased relatively slightly so far, while the trend for infections caused by the still dominant Alpha variant is declining more sharply.

In the future, it is expected that Delta will overtake Alpha as the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Germany. 

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