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How I got Germany’s new digital CovPass with my US vaccination certificate

Germany has started rolling out its digital Covid health pass. What does it mean for people who were vaccinated in another country? Here's how The Local reader John Camp got on with his US vaccine certificate.

How I got Germany's new digital CovPass with my US vaccination certificate
A sign in a Berlin pharmacy showing digital vaccine certificates are available. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Paul Zinken

From Monday, lots of pharmacies in Germany have been able to provide vaccinated people with a digital vaccine certificate for the first time. 

Meanwhile, people who haven’t been vaccinated yet should begin to receive the digital certificate at the time of their jab.

Those who are fully inoculated against Covid can visit a pharmacy (check to find out which ones are taking part), show proof of vaccination and then get the QR code that can be scanned into an app, such as CovPass or the Corona Warning app, on their smartphone. 

READ ALSO: German pharmacies begin offering digital vaccination certificates

But for those who’ve been vaccinated abroad, the situation can be a bit more tricky. That’s because Germany has not published any firm rules on how people who’ve had their jabs abroad can show proof.

US-born John Camp, 50, who lives in Cologne and was vaccinated in Florida earlier this year, has found that his CDC card is often not accepted in Germany when it is required, for example – to eat inside a restaurant or go to the gym.

“So far in Germany, many places are asking for proof of vaccination,” Camp told The Local. “Eight times out of 10 I show them this paper (CDC card) and first of all it’s in English – they don’t like that. And second of all, they say: ‘No we can’t really accept this, sorry.’ So it’s been a little difficult so far.”

The new digital vaccine certificate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner

The German Health Ministry told the Local that vaccines logged in the internationally-recognised WHO ‘yellow booklet’ will be accepted – however, talks are ongoing on recognising vaccine certificates from outside Germany. 

‘Huge relief’

Real estate broker Camp, who has lived in Germany permanently for about four years, was eager to get a digital certificate, but had no idea if his US vaccination card would be accepted as proof in a pharmacy. 

Camp set off this morning to try and get the job done. He said the first three pharmacies he visited didn’t have the digital vaccine system up and running. 


The fourth pharmacy did not accept the US vaccination card as proof. He tried another – they accepted his card but the employee said they couldn’t enter the information into the system because Pfizer was not on the drop-down list of approved vaccines. 

“I tried to explain to him that it would probably be listed in his system as BioNTech, as it is the same vaccine/partnership, but he gave my documents back and said he can’t do it,” said Camp. 

He tried the sixth pharmacy – and got lucky. The employee typed everything into the system and he received two pieces of paper – one for each separate vaccine, “each one containing the QR codes for the app”, said Camp. 

He was able to scan it into his smartphone to get the digital certificate. 

“It’s a huge relief,” Camp told The Local. “I travel a lot, I travel all over Europe. This will make it so much easier. I think it will help even around Germany.

“A lot of places will start to use this so now I don’t need to show an American document, I can flash this QR code and I’m good to go.”

And his advice for anyone else who has a foreign vaccination certificate? Getting it seems to be at the discretion of the pharmacy, so shop around. 

“If other Americans have the same problem, they should keep in mind that if one person tells them ‘no’, they should try a different pharmacy,” he said.

Member comments

  1. I was lucky with local pharmacy second jab in Germany but first in UK. Same vaccine but pharmacy accepted NHS card plus screenshot from NHS letter telling me I needed to get second jab. Onus is on pharmacy to check data. I had evidence of appointment, location, vaccine plus e-mail trail from local health board I’d contacted them to ask for advice on 2nd vaccine. It depends on pharmacy and whether they will accept overseas evidence.

  2. I got my certificate (the two sheets of paper). However, the CovPass app is not available in the App store. I have a German number (i.e., +49) but it says I’m in the wrong region for it. Anybody discover work arounds for this?

    1. The app will only be available if you are logged into the German app store. Even a German SIM card in your phone would not change the app store region that you are signed up with. However, as long as you have a German credit card, you can log out of the app store and then sign up with a secondary login to the German app store (with the German credit card). This is what I had to do a couple years ago, so that I can toggle back and forth between app stores as needed.

      1. Hi John, are you able to share from where you received your pass in the end? What was the “6th pharmacy”?

  3. The fact we have to ‘shop around’ shows how truly broken the system is. Well done Germany :/

  4. Just have your German doctor transcribe the details into the yellow vaccine booklet, and viola. Only problem now is can’t get the App with US App Store, no German cc… oh, well

  5. The link in the article for Apoteke offering codes was super helpful! Found a pharmacy/Apoteke around the corner from me. Then I scanned q-r code into the Corona-Warn App👍👏

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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.


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”.