German health experts warn some groups ‘not fully protected’ after Covid vaccine

Germany's infection rate is continuing to fall and vaccinations are increasing. But health experts warn that some people may still not be immune against Covid even after their jabs.

German health experts warn some groups 'not fully protected' after Covid vaccine
Vaccinations taking place at the car maker Opel in Hesse on June 9th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO), which advises the government on vaccine matters, says it believes some people have not built up effective coronavirus immune protection despite being fully vaccinated.

“There are now several studies showing that vaccination against Covid-19 does not work as well in people whose immune systems are slowed down by medication as it does in others,” STIKO chairman Thomas Mertens told the Funke Media Group newspapers.

The immune response is worse than others – or it fails altogether, he said.

This affects people who have undergone an organ transplant, for example, and also cancer patients in some cases. In rheumatism patients, too, the immune response is reduced to varying levels, he said.

In such cases, it is important to reduce the risk of infection in the environment through vaccinating as many people as possible. “This is called the cocoon strategy,” Mertens said.

At the moment it’s not possible to estimate how large the group of patients is who have not built up any immune protection, or too little, despite being fully inoculated. “But we have to assume that these are not just isolated cases,” he said. 

Earlier this week Germany opened up all vaccines to everyone over 12 in the country. However, there are still shortages on supplies and appointments. 

State by state: How to apply for a Covid vaccine in Germany

The latest figures show 46.5 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 22.8 percent are fully vaccinated against Covid. 

Infection rate drops below 20

It came as the number of Covid-19 infections in Germany continued to fall. On Thursday the number of cases per 100,000 residents in seven days stood at 19.3. The previous day it had been at 20.8, and a week ago it was 34.1.

The highest incidence rate among the states is in Baden-Württemberg, with 25.9, and the lowest in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, with just 5.3 cases per 100,000 people. No district is reporting an incidence above 75. Tirschenreuth and the district of Schwerin now have a 7-day incidence of 0.

READ ALSO: Germany’s infection rate drops further as some areas reach ‘zero Covid’

Areas across Germany are continuing to open up more of public life after the shutdown. In Berlin, hotels and other tourist accommodation is opening from Friday June 11th.

On Thursday, health offices reported 3,187 new coronavirus infections within a day to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).  For comparison, a week ago there were 4,640 cases.

Across Germany, 94 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours. A week ago, there had been 166 deaths. The number of people who have died from or with a confirmed Covid infection now stands at 89,585.

The RKI has logged 3,709,129 confirmed Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, but the actual total is likely to be much higher because many infections go undetected. The estimated number of people who have recovered stands at around 3,563,800.

The nationwide 7-day reproductive number (R) is 0.74, according to the RKI. This means that 100 infected people on average go on to infect 74 more people.

If the R number is below 1 for a longer period of time, the incidence of infection is decreasing; if it is continuously above 1, the number of cases is going up. 

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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.