Germany overtakes US for first Covid jabs

For the first time since the vaccination campaign started, Germany has caught up with the United States on the proportion of the population who've had their first Covid jab.

Germany overtakes US for first Covid jabs
A 14-year-old German gets his first Covid jab on June 19th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

At present, the Bundesrepublik has partially vaccinated just over 54 percent of its population, while the United States lags slightly behind on 53.8 percent of the population.

The news will undoubtedly be welcomed by Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) and his colleagues in the Health Ministry, who have faced continuous criticism over the slightly chaotic roll-out of the inoculation campaign.

Though vaccinations have gained strong momentum over the past eight weeks or so, the start of the campaign was marred by insufficient vaccine supply and a highly centralised, bureaucratic system based around large vaccination centres in cities. 

At the end of May, Spahn was again criticised for opting to the lift the national prioritisation scheme and open up vaccination appointments to all adults on June 7th.

With questions around the availability of doses and the capacity of doctor’s surgeries to meet demand, key medical figures described lifting the prioritisation as a false promise that would lead to “frustration”.

READ ALSO: German doctors warn against lifting vaccine priority list

In contrast, countries like the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom have often been cited as models for successful vaccination campaigns – meaning that latest news that Germany has caught up with the United States will be a vindicating moment for Spahn. 

Relative – not absolute – figures

However, it’s worth noting that the data on the vaccine roll-outs is usually presented as a “relative”, rather than an “absolute” figure.

That means it usually talks about what proportion of the population have been vaccinated, rather than the actual number of doses given out. 

At 328 million people, the population of the United States is almost four times bigger than Germany’s population of 83 million.

Since the data is calculated as a proportion of the population, this means Germany has to administer much fewer doses to vaccinate half of the population.

According to public radio service NPR, the United States has administered 325 million doses of vaccine so far, compared to Germany’s 73.8 million doses.

When you look at the number of people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in both countries, this also presents a slightly different picture.

So far, the United States has managed to fully inoculate almost half – 47 percent – of its population, while the proportion of the German population fully vaccinated is currently around 36 percent. 

READ ALSO: Germany to accelerate vaccinations as Delta variant spreads

In Germany, there also continues to be a great deal of variation between the speed of the vaccine drives in different states

At present, the state that has administered the largest proportion of its population is the northern city-state of Bremen, which has successfully put first-doses into the arms of 62.6 percent of its residents. 

Meanwhile, the eastern state of Saxony continues to trail behind the other states, with just 48 percent of people there having received their first jab. 

In an attempt to speed up its vaccination drive, Bavaria – who is also lagging behind on first doses – announced this week that they would be scrapping prioritisation in its vaccination clinics.

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

While national prioritisation has been scrapped on June 7th, some states had continued to favour people in priority groups in their state vaccination centres, while allowing other adults to book shots via their GP. 

Member comments

  1. So the comparison is Germany jabbed 45,000,000+, compared to US jabbed 179,000,000+. There’s your 54%, not really worth comparing.

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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”.