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COVID-19 VACCINES

Will Curevac’s Covid vaccine delay impact Germany’s jab rollout?

A coronavirus vaccine being developed by Germany's CureVac is facing delays as its late-stage trial is slowed by the wait for enough participants to catch Covid, officials said Friday.

Will Curevac's Covid vaccine delay impact Germany's jab rollout?
A vaccinato centre in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

CureVac initially expected to seek European approval for its jab in the second quarter, with Germany pencilling in 1.4 million doses by end-June.

But Health Minister Jens Spahn told his regional counterparts the regulatory authorisation is now not expected to come before August,
Baden-Württemberg’s health minister Manfred Lucha told AFP, confirming earlier reports.

Lucha, whose state is home to CureVac’s Tübingen headquarters, told local media there were “complications” with the trial.

The German government, which has promised to offer all adults a jab by late September, is no longer counting on CureVac to play a role in the current inoculation drive, according to the Mannheimer Morgen daily.

The German Health Ministry declined to comment further, but said once the vaccine is greenlit “we will include CureVac in the campaign”.

READ ALSO: Almost one in four people in Germany fully vaccinated against Covid

Like the highly effective vaccines developed by faster rivals BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, CureVac’s shot is based on novel mRNA technology.

The German firm, founded in 2000 by mRNA pioneer Ingmar Hoerr, announced in interim results late May that independent analysis “found no safety concerns” with its vaccine.

But efficacy results have yet to be published.

To complete its trial, involving about 40,000 volunteers in Europe and Latin America, CureVac needs at least 111 participants to contract the virus.

It had expected to reach the target and seek authorisation in late May or early June, but dwindling infection rates have slowed proceedings.

A CureVac spokeswoman told AFP the company now expects to have collected enough data “by the end of June”.

The trial is complicated by the spread of virus variants, which was not an issue for the early Covid vaccines.

READ ALSO: Germany is in ‘race to vaccinate’ against Covid Delta variant, warns Merkel

In the CureVac trial, each coronavirus case is genetically sequenced to determine the variant and how effective the shot is against it, a process the firm said was time consuming.

Despite being a laggard in the vaccine race, CureVac believes it has advantages over its mRNA competitors. 

CureVac’s product can be stored at standard refrigerator temperature, unlike the first-generation Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which require
super-cold freezers.

CureVac’s vaccine also needs a lower dosage, allowing for faster and cheaper mass production.

The European Union has secured up to 405 million doses of the CureVac vaccine.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Germany's federal vaccine agency says that people who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should no longer be classed as being fully vaccinated.

People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

People who’ve had J&J, sometimes known as Janssen, used to have full vaccination status after a single dose of the vaccine. 

Since January 15th, however, a single dose of J&J should no longer count as full vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s vaccine authority. 

In autumn last year the German government began recommending a second mRNA jab for people who’d had J&J – which many people thought was the booster vaccination. 

However, according to the PEI’s update on proof of vaccination within the Covid Protective Measures Exemption Ordinance and the Coronavirus Entry Ordinance, the second shot is needed to complete ‘basic immunisation’.

It is unclear at this stage if it means that people returning or coming to Germany from abroad with only one shot of J&J will be counted as partially vaccinated and therefore need to present tests or face other forms of barriers to entry. 

We are also looking into what this means for the various health pass rules in states, such as the 3G rules for transport. 

The Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German-language medical magazine, said: “Special rules according to which one dose was recognised as a complete vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are no longer applicable.”

The Local has contacted the German Health Ministry for clarification on what this means for those affected. 

According to the latest government figures, 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany so far in the vaccination campaign. 

The news will come as a shock to those who don’t know that they need another jab, or haven’t got round to getting their second vaccine yet. 

All other jabs – such as BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – already require two jabs. 

People in Germany are seen as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. 

What about boosters?

As The Local Germany has been reporting, the German government said in December that people who’ve had J&J need a third shot three months after their second dose to be considered boosted.

A German Health Ministry spokesman told us last week that due to more vaccination breakthrough infections affecting people who’ve had the J&J vaccine, extra protection was needed.

“Therefore, after completion of the basic immunisation as recommended by STIKO, i.e. after administration of two vaccine doses (preferably 1x J&J + 1x mRNA), following the current recommendation of the STIKO, a further booster vaccination can subsequently be administered with a minimum interval of a further three months, as with the other approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Health Ministry spokesman said. 

However, there has been much confusion on this front because some states have been accepting J&J and another shot as being boosted, while others haven’t.

READ ALSO:

It is unclear if the new regulation will mean that states will all have to only accept J&J and two shots as being boosted. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, for instance, updated its regulations on January 16th and now requires that people who’ve had J&J and one shot have another jab to be boosted. 

Having a booster shot in Germany means that you do not have to take a Covid-19 test if you’re entering a venue, such as a restaurant or cafe, under the 2G-plus rules.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that proof of complete vaccination protection against Covid takes into account “the current state of medical science”. 

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