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BAVARIA

Bavaria opens up Covid vaccines to all adults in bid to speed up jab drive

Bavaria is one of the few German states that is still sticking to the priority list in Covid vaccination centres. But that's set to change as it tries to pick up the pace.

Bavaria opens up Covid vaccines to all adults in bid to speed up jab drive
Bavarian prime minister Markus Söder (CSU) attends the Covid vaccination summit at Bavaria's state parliament on June 28th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Pool | Matthias Balk

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder (CSU) is fighting to increase the tempo of the state’s Covid vaccination drive, where the number of first doses administered lags behind the rest of Germany.

His key strategy for expediting the drive will be to drop the prioritisation of appointments in state vaccination centres from this week onwards, according to a recent report in Spiegel.

This will allow all over-18s in Bavaria to book a vaccine over the coming months, regardless of health condition, profession or age.

Following Health Secretary Jens Spahn’s decision to drop prioritisation for vaccine appointments from June 7th on a national level, Bavaria is one of the last states to hold onto its priority lists. 

But now, with health experts warning that the highly infectious Delta variant could become the dominant variant of Covid in Germany by July, Söder and other state leaders are under pressure to get shots into arms as soon as possible.

On Monday, June 28th, Hamburg also dropped its priority system to allow all adults to book a Covid vaccine in vaccination centres, following on from its neighbouring state of Schleswig-Holstein, which was the third-last state to scrap prioritisation on June 16th.

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70 percent of Bavarian residents to be jabbed by July 30th

According to Söder, by the time Bavarian schools break up for the summer holidays on July 30th, 70 percent of the Bavarian population should have had at least one shot, while more than half of the population should be fully vaccinated. 

If he succeeds, the targets would represent a major about-turn on Bavaria’s current performance in the race to inoculate.

On Monday, June 28th, only around 50.9 percent of the state’s residents had received their first dose.

This figure is almost four percent less than the 54.6 percent who have currently been vaccinated nationally, and is trailed only by the eastern state of Saxony, where only 47.6 percent have received one dose of the vaccine.

However, the southern state fairs a little better on the number of completed vaccinations, with 35.2 percent of the population now considered to be fully immunised. 

In addition to ditching the prioritisation at vaccine centres, Söder, who bid and failed to become the conservative chancellor candidate, also hopes that private companies will make a greater effort to inoculate their employees – a move that could help take the pressure off family doctors and state vaccination centres.

READ MORE: Merkel’s conservatives confirm Laschet for chancellor candidate as Söder concedes

According to Spiegel, he also wants Bavarian vaccination centres to remain open beyond September.

“We believe that it would be a mistake now to end an essential part of the vaccination strategy,” he said, adding that the capacity of the vaccination centers would probably need to be “somewhat reduced”. 

While Söder is not opting to open up the vaccine offer to under-18s for the next few months, he did voice concern at the rapid spread of the Delta variant among school children and young people. 

“Ignoring the Delta variant would be a huge mistake,” he said.

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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.

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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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