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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany to secure 204 million Covid vaccine ‘booster’ doses for 2022

The German Health Ministry plans to order more than 204 million doses of Covid vaccine for the coming year, in order to provide booster jabs and protection against new variants to the entire population.

Germany to secure 204 million Covid vaccine 'booster' doses for 2022
A doctor prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | David Young

The huge vaccine order, which will cost the government an estimated €3.9 billion, is enough to provide every one of the country’s residents with at least two jabs in 2022.

In a report seen by business daily Handelsblatt, the Health Ministry said it was advisable “to secure further vaccine quantities in good time to protect against mutations and [offer] booster vaccinations”.

Though the 7-day incidence of new Covid infections per 100,000 people remains in single-digits (5.1) in Germany, experts continue to voice concern over the increasing dominance of the more transmissible Delta variant.

According to the most recent reports from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Delta is now estimated to account for at least one in two new Covid infections in the country. 

READ ALSO: Delta variant causing ‘at least half’ of new Covid infections in Germany

This has lead to questions about the effectiveness of different vaccines against Delta and other new variants, and concerns that regular vaccinations – much like an annual flu jab – may be needed on a longer term basis.

The bulk vaccine order follows in the footsteps of the EU, which has already signed a contract for the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer/BioNTech by 2023.

Of this amount, 84.4 million doses will be delivered to Germany – enough to provide the entire population of 84 million with around one dose per person. 

In addition, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) plans to order 31.8 million doses of the mRNA vaccine Moderna, and 18.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson.

He will also order 70 million additional doses of vaccines produced by manufacturers Sanofi, Novavax and Valneva, reported Handelsblatt. There are no plans to place an order of CureVac – the new German vaccine that has been plagued by medical-trial and efficacy issues in recent weeks. 

READ ALSO: Covid vaccine from Germany’s CureVac just 48 percent effective

The news of the Ministry’s forward-planning has received a positive reception in the medical community so far, with the head of the Central Institute of Statutory Health Insurance (ZI), Dominik Stillfried, praising the plans.

“This means that the time of the vaccine shortage is coming to an end,” he told Handelsblatt on Wednesday.

“Doctors practices should be able to count on reliable deliveries for orders for booster vaccinations in the future.” 

Booster jabs “recommended” for vulnerable groups

Writing on Twitter, German immunologist Carsten Watzl pointed out that, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which is equivalent to Germany’s Vaccines Commission (STIKO), had already released a recommendation that booster shots be given out to vulnerable people this autumn. 

In the United States, meanwhile, immunology experts are mulling over whether booster shots of an mRNA vaccine such as BioNTech or Moderna are required for people who have had the Johnson&Johnson (J&J) vaccine in order to protect against severe courses of Covid.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccine mix-and-match: Why is it so common in Germany – and is it safe?

While many experts believe that the other EU-approved vaccines are effective against Delta, questions have been raised about the level of protection offered by Johnson & Johnson, which only requires a single dose. 

While there is insufficient evidence to say for sure whether J&J is less effective, a recent UK study revealed that people who have had a single dose of vaccine are barely protected against Delta, while those who have had two have a much stronger immune response against it. 

“There’s no doubt that the people who receive the J&J vaccine are less protected against disease [than those who get two doses of other vaccines],” Stanford professor Dr. Michael Lin told Reuters. “From the principle of taking easy steps to prevent really bad outcomes, this (giving an extra dose of a vaccine) is really a no brainer.”

Next phase of vaccine roll-out commences in Germany

This July, the Health Ministry is planning to launch a new phase of its inoculation programme to target segments of the population who until now have been less likely to get a vaccination.

A new campaign is being planned to attempt speak directly to these people, the Ministry revealed. 

According to the most recent figures, 54.5 percent of the German population has now had at least one vaccine dose, while 36.5 percent are now fully vaccinated.

This means that, for the first time, Germany has overtaken the United States on the proportion of the population who have received at least one dose. 

READ ALSO: Germany overtakes US for first Covid jabs

Vocabulary

Vaccine doses – (die) Impfdosen

Manufacturer – (der) Hersteller

Booster jab – (die) Auffrischungsimpfung

Effectiveness – (die) Wirksamkeit

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.

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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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