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EXPLAINED: How can people in Germany get a Covid vaccine appointment?

As Germany lifts the priority list and offers everyone a Covid vaccine appointment from Monday June 7th, we looked at how people have been trying to get a coveted spot for the jab.

EXPLAINED: How can people in Germany get a Covid vaccine appointment?
A woman being vaccinated in Berlin recently. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Millions of people have already received a Covid vaccination in Germany – but a larger majority is still waiting to receive a jab.

And as Germany dropped the priority list fully on Monday June 7th – opening vaccinations up to everyone over the age of 12 – many people are wondering how they can actually get an appointment. 

So far, 45.4 percent of the population has been given at least one dose, and 20.7 percent are fully vaccinated. 

An estimated 70-75 percent of the German population is willing to be vaccinated, according to research. 

You can find information on Germany’s state websites and hotlines here. 

Which vaccines are available in Germany?

Germany has approved Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson so far. All require two doses with a specified break in between the jabs apart from J&J which requires only one shot. People in Germany are classed as fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose (or one dose in the case of J&J). 

Where can people get appointments?

Appointments for vaccines were reserved for people in Germany’s three priority groups, which include the over 60s, care home residents, health staff, people with certain health conditions and other front line workers like supermarket staff, police and teachers.

READ ALSO: State by state – What are Germany’s current vaccination groups?

After June 7th anyone over the age of 12 will be allowed to apply to get a jab. There are several ways to do this in Germany and some of it depends on where you live.

As demand is high, German media site Focus Online recommends combining several options to try and get an appointment as quickly as possible.

Below is a look at the possibilities which currently exist around Germany.

READ ALSO: Germany to open up vaccines to all adults from June 7th: What you need to know

Vaccine centres 

So far, injections at centres have been for priority groups, with states opting for different ways to offer residents appointments. There are around 420 vaccination centres across Germany.

In Bavaria, for example, people who want to be vaccinated have been able to register on a nationwide portal and specify that they belong to risk group. People are then notified by SMS when they can get a vaccination appointment.

Throughout Germany you can book a vaccination appointment online, through sites like Doctolib in some places, or via the nationwide hotline 116 117.

However, many vaccination centres are reporting that they are busy carrying out second vaccinations at the moment. That’s because doses they receive for June have already been scheduled to be given as a second dose at the correct vaccination interval after the first vaccination of patients.

Although non-priority groups should wait until June 7th to try and get an appointment at a vaccine centre, we’ve heard anecdotally that people have already been trying to book appointments – but that it is near impossible in some states, such as Berlin, to secure one. 

Cancelled slots are often swept up in seconds, showing the sheer demand for a shot. 

It could be that more appointments become available in centres when Germany gets new deliveries of vaccine doses.  

Vaccination with a family doctor

If you cannot or prefer not to register online or via the hotline, you can try to get a dose through your family doctor. Across Germany, the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines are generally only available through GPs or specialists.

That’s because both of these vaccines are connected to a very small risk of blood clots so people who want those vaccines, have to complete a consultation with the vaccinating doctor beforehand. The priority list for these vaccines has already been lifted, meaning they are open to everyone (after a consultation).

Some states in Germany, like Berlin and Bavaria as well as others, have already lifted the priority list for all vaccines from GPs and specialists. That means you can receive any vaccine from a doctor in these places, but not yet at vaccination centres.

A doctor giving a Covid vaccine to a patient in Dresden on May 21st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Many private practices offer a waiting list for those willing to be vaccinated. 

And if there are doses left over, people who appear spontaneously for the appointment or signal that they can be called at short notice can also get hold of them – regardless of whether they belong to a priority group or not. Other practices offer online appointments. 

Keep in mind that doctors are receiving a high amount of inquiries at the moment so it could be difficult to get one through this route. 

Some doctors are also holding clinics where they announce that they have a certain number of vaccine doses to give away and ask people to queue at a certain time. 

These are often advertised online or posted on websites such as Reddit or Facebook groups. Look for groups that apply to your area. 

Searching for a vaccine appointment online

At the moment there are not enough doses to offer everyone in Germany a vaccination right away. But, as we said above, there are often leftovers.

They can become available in the vaccination centres and at the family doctor – for example when the patient does not show up. Since the vials with the vaccines can only be kept for a certain period of time, they have to be inoculated.

There are various online portals through which you can try and get these remaining doses. 

You can search for free appointments in the centres via the Vaccination appointment overview or Vaccination appointment radar. Residents from 10 federal states can find free appointments here and book them directly. You can filter the dates until the vaccination priority list is lifted and indicate whether you belong to a risk group. This offer is currently available for the states of Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia.

The website Corona Vaccination Appointment offers another way to get an appointment. It lists appointments online in medical practices in 20 major German cities, including Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne. Users can be notified via Twitter or Telegram as soon as an appointment becomes available in their own city.

The app Ranstad Impf-Finder follows a similar concept. Through this app you can define a radius and search for free appointments in it. The portal brings doctors and those willing to be vaccinated together: Doctors can also register on the portal and enter the number of available vaccine doses and the time period in which they want to administer shots. You can also choose which vaccine you prefer.

The Immediate Vaccination website will in future also offer the possibility of finding a free Covid jab appointment. To do this, you have to register on the website and you will receive free appointments by email. The website already exists, but this initiative has not yet started.

Local vaccination drives

Some areas of Germany are carrying out clinics to vaccinate people living in hotspots or socially disadvantaged areas. 

There was recently a three-day vaccine drive held in Berlin’s Neukölln and similar initiatives have been held in Cologne. 

On June 5th and 6th, a vaccination drive is being held in the Schöneberg area in Berlin. Check out the details here. For these kinds of local drives, you should keep a look out on your apartment building noticeboard or front door, as well as your local government website. 

READ ALSO: What it’s like to get a jab through Berlin’s project to vaccinate hotspots

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder has also previously said Germany will have to provide more community drives held at places like supermarkets, pharmacies, schools or drive-ins, similar to what has been happening in the US. 

Company-wide vaccine campaigns

From Monday June 7th, in-house doctors in firms will be allowed to carry out vaccinations for all employees. Check with your Human Resources team to see if that’s a possibility. It usually applies to large companies.

Some companies have already started vaccinating their staff in recent weeks as part of pilot projects. 

What to keep in mind

Remember that German states have different processes and varying bureaucracy so check the details on what you need to bring to your vaccine appointment in advance. Typically you should bring ID (like a passport), your health insurance card and your vaccine “yellow booklet” if you have one. You can get one at a pharmacy or doctor.

You may need proof of your address (Anmeldung). You might also need to fill out forms before the appointment although they could also be provided at the appointment. 

As we’ve said there is a high demand for vaccine appointments, especially as countries are looking to open up for travel soon and being fully vaccinated in Germany can mean you can skip quarantine on many occasions.

But German authorities say that people will be able to get a vaccine soon so don’t panic if you aren’t having much luck in finding an appointment at first. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier this week that the country is on track to offer nine out of 10 adults who are willing to be vaccinated a shot by the middle of next month. 

READ ALSO: German Health Minister predicts 90 percent of people who want vaccine will have one by mid July

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.