FOR MEMBERS

EXPLAINED: What to do if your second Covid jab in Germany clashes with your holiday

EXPLAINED: What to do if your second Covid jab in Germany clashes with your holiday
Tourists relax on the beach in Greece, where Birgit H. had planned to have her post-lockdown break. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/XinHua | Lefteris Partsalis
We're all keen to get our second Covid jab, but what happens if your vaccine appointment falls while you're away from Germany? We take a look at your rights and options.

It’s been a long wait for the Covid vaccine rollout in Germany to truly get underway, yet with around 53.6 percent of the population now partially vaccinated, many people feel as if freedom is just around the corner.

But with summer and the school holidays now upon us, there’s another risk: being given an appointment for the second shot at the exact same time you’re flying abroad for a post-lockdown holiday. 

That’s exactly what happened to Birgit H., a resident of Bavaria who shared her story with regional radio station BR24.

(article continues below)

See also on The Local:

Having booked a holiday in Greece a few days after her last dose of vaccine was due, her GP surgery suddenly informed her they had run out of doses, and had to push the appointment back a week. In other words – to the exact same time she was supposed to be on the beach.

READ ALSO: Is Germany set to tighten testing and quarantine travel rules?

If you’re in Birgit’s position, it may seem like bad luck, but you do have options. Here’s what you need to know about your consumer rights if your second dose coincides with your holiday. 

My doctor offered me a vaccine appointment and then suddenly postponed it – can I take legal action?

According to legal experts, vaccine appointments – much like Ikea delivery windows – are considered more of a rough estimation of when you will be seen, rather than a cast-iron guarantee. 

Vaccination centres and doctors’ surgeries can’t generally be held liable if the appointment you’ve been given isn’t honoured, travel law expert Professor Ronald Schmid of Dresden Technical University told BR24. 

What about travel insurance? Will that help?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic came to Europe, travel insurance has provided tourists with a sense that they can hedge their bets against ongoing uncertainty – such as sudden outbreaks of the pandemic, travel bans or falling ill.

In reality, however, travel insurance policies don’t tend to account for every eventuality, and it’s quite unlikely that they’d reimburse a missed holiday due to a vaccination appointment. 

That’s according to Julia Zeller, a lawyer from the Bavarian Consumer Advice Centre, who spoke to BR24 about the issue. In most cases, your travel insurance will cover you if you get ill ahead of your trip abroad, and in Zeller’s view, it’s unlikely that this would stretch to include vaccinations.

Nevertheless, she says, it’s always worth checking the small-print of your policy. You never know whether you might be eligible for a refund, after all. 

Do holidays count as a valid excuse to postpone a vaccine appointment?  

According to the Bavarian Health Ministry, the answer is ‘no’ – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try. Though planned holidays aren’t considered an “urgent personal reason” for a postponement, your vaccination centre or GP may be willing to show some flexibility. 

For AstraZeneca, for example, the Federal Health Ministry has previously said that those willing to get inoculated with the the vector vaccine are free to organise the gap between doses with their doctor – as long as the second appointment falls within the permitted window of four to twelve weeks.

READ ALSO: Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?

For Modern and Pfizer/BioNTech, official advice suggests that the second dose should be taken no more than 60 days (or roughly eight and a half weeks) after the first, so be aware of this if you attempt to postpone the second dose. 

There’s also the chance that last-minute doses may show up after all due to missed appointments – which is exactly what happened to Birgit H., BR24 reports. 

Can I postpone my holiday instead?

If you’re unable to find a suitable alternative appointment for your second vaccine dose, changing or cancelling your trip may well be the best option. Many travel agents have introduced a range of ‘good faith’ options for people to amend their trip due to Covid-related issues, though Zeller doesn’t believe that vaccination appointments are generally covered.

According to the consumer rights expert, you may be given two options: either take the holiday regardless, or cancel or amend it and pay the associated fees. 

However, with many travel agents and airlines offering flexible booking options in the Covid pandemic, a lot may depend on the type of booking you have; how last-minute your request is, and how willing the company is to compromise. In any case, if you approach your travel agent or airline and explain your situation, they may be open to finding another solution. 

Does it matter that I’m not fully vaccinated when I leave to go abroad?

For many countries (although not all), people who can present a negative test or certificate of recovery from Covid-19 are put on an even-footing with the fully vaccinated when entering Germany, so if your final vaccine appointment falls after your holidays, you should still in some cases be able to travel with a negative test or proof of recovery instead. 

READ ALSO: Germany relaxes travel rules for vaccinated non-EU residents – What you need to know

That said, you may feel more comfortable travelling abroad when you have greater immunity, especially if you are visiting bustling tourist hotspots. 

Based on present evidence, medical experts believe that a single dose of vaccine is much less effective against the Delta variant of Covid-19 than a completed course of vaccinations.

This could mean that a visit abroad poses greater risks to people who aren’t yet fully immunised – though the choice, of course, is up to you. 

Vocabulary

holiday – (der) Urlaub

postpone appointment – (den) Termin verschieben 

consumer rights – (die) Verbraucherrechte

cancel – stornieren 

amend – ändern

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.