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EXPLAINED: Why Covid vaccine demand is dropping in Germany

As Germany reopens public life, Covid vaccine centres are reporting of numerous doses left unclaimed - and countless no-shows. What happened to the days of scrambling for doses, and has supply finally outstripped demand?

EXPLAINED: Why Covid vaccine demand is dropping in Germany
A sign in a vaccination clinic directs people to the waiting area. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp Schulze

What’s happening?

While just a month or so ago, people were scrabbling to get a Covid shot, it appears that Germany’s vaccination drive has entered a new phase: the roll-out of jabs is running smoothly, but demand for the jabs appears to be tapering off. 

In Bavaria, one vaccination centre recently secured 1,800 AstraZeneca shots and managed to deliver just 180 of these into residents’ arms. Meanwhile, Berlin’s pop-up clinics – initially intended for local residents – have been expanding to cover the entire city in order to use up the available doses. 

According to a recent report in Taggespiegel, the drive is now progressing so rapidly that the federal government has revised its vaccination targets once again.

While Health Minister Jens Spahn has originally promised that everyone who wanted an appointment could get one by the end of the summer, ministers now believe that this goal can be achieved by the end of July. 

There have also been reports of a large number of missed vaccine appointments across Germany, with several large vaccination centres revealing that around six percent of their appointments are currently no-shows. 

This has led to a debate about whether people who don’t turn up for their Covid jab should face fines, since missed appointments can often result in wasted doses. 

READ ALSO: Germany urged to ‘get more creative’ with vaccine offers as Delta variant spreads

Does that mean nobody wants a vaccine anymore?

Not necessarily, but it could be that everyone who initially wanted a vaccine appointment has managed to book it already and has either had the first dose of the vaccine, or is set to get it over the next few weeks.

Over the past few months, Germany’s vaccine roll-out has been turbocharged as local doctors’ surgeries and mobile vaccine clinics were enlisted to help carry out the vaccination drive alongside the larger vaccination centres. 

Meanwhile, the supply issues that plagued Germany’s immunisation drive at the start appear to have been ironed out, with the country managing to secure 50 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech alone in the first seven months of the year. 

On May 30th – just a week before the Health Ministry opted to lift the prioritisation of vaccine appointments nationwide – Health Minister Jens Spahn said he expected that 90 percent of everyone who wanted a vaccine would be able to get one by mid-July. 

This was partly to do with the fact that the government had managed to find reliable suppliers for the vaccines, he said. 

READ ALSO: German Health Minister predicts 90 percent of people who want vaccine will have one by mid-July

At present, just under 60 percent of people in Germany have had at least one jab, while around 41.5 percent are considered fully vaccinated.

According to recent reports, physicians will be able to administer a further 17-18 million first doses of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) by the end of July – equating to around 22 percent of the population.

Germany has received a large number of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses in recent months. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

This essentially means that, by the end of July, around 78 percent of the German population would have had an opportunity to be at least partially inoculated against Covid.

That figure could potentially match – or exceed – the number of people who want a vaccine in the first place.

How many people want to get vaccinated in Germany?

Back in May, Spahn estimated that the proportion of the population who wanted to get vaccinated was around 70-75 percent, but added that this would be a “very good” outcome in the inoculation drive.

A recent poll by Covimo – who have been monitoring Germany’s vaccine coverage – paints a similar picture. 

Of a random sample of around 1,000 people, 66.8 percent said they would definitely get vaccinated, while a further 13.2 percent said they probably would – suggesting that around 80 percent of the German population tend to see Covid vaccination positively.

Around four percent, meanwhile, said they definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated, while a further four percent probably wouldn’t. Twelve percent said they were still on the fence.

It’s also worth noting that, as of 2019, there were around 13 million under-18s in Germany, equating to around 16 percent of the population. Since there’s no official recommendation for under-18s to be immunised, and children are generally considered to be less affected by severe courses of Covid, we would expect this proportion of the population to have a much lower vaccination coverage than the adults. 

So, is supply outstripping demand?

In some parts of the country, yes – but according to health experts, this is simply because the demand has been more than met.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, the willingness to get vaccinated against Covid remains “at a high level”.

In short, it seems that the inoculation drive has now entered a new phase in which the infrastructure and vaccine doses are there, but the demand is slowing simply because so many people have already been catered for.

What about all those missed vaccine appointments?

There are numerous potential reasons for this, all of which have probably come into play over the past few weeks.

The first is, once again, that people may have managed to secure an appointment elsewhere – perhaps for their preferred type of vaccine – and didn’t end up needing the other one they’d booked. 

This is certainly the case in Bavaria, where the state Health Ministry has reported that a number of appointment invitations have been sent out via the state vaccine registration portal, even though the addressee has already received a vaccination with their local GP. 

The second could be related to the time of year, when schools break up for summer and many people decide to go on holiday – meaning they’re unable to come to their second vaccine appointment.

With Covid infections falling dramatically over the past few months, and public life reopening, people may also feel that getting vaccinated is much less urgent at present. 

However, the Robert Koch Institute believes that people who have had the first appointment are very unlikely to turn down the second one outright. In a survey published by the public health authority, 98.7 percent of those surveyed who had previously been vaccinated stated that they “definitely” or “very likely” want to be vaccinated a second time.

“So there is no apparent tendency that the recommended vaccination schedule is not completed,” the RKI explained.

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

Finally, a certain proportion of missed appointments – as many doctors know – tends to be a fact of life, and could also be down to basic human error, such as forgetfulness or poor organisation. 

What’s the government doing to help? 

Alongside the discussion around fines, the Federal Health Ministry is now moving into a new phase of its vaccination drive where it will attempt to target groups that have so far been less likely to receive a jab.

In addition, some states are launching their own campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy, by presenting inoculation as the gateway to freedom, holidays and fun.

READ ALSO: Car parks, job centres and festivals: How Germany is trying to get a Covid jab to everyone

In Bavaria, for example, the “Ich tu’s für…” (I’m doing it for…) campaign gives numerous reasons why people could get vaccinated.

“I’m doing it for the pop homies,” says rapper Ashley, one of the campaign’s ambassadors. 

“If everyone joins in, we can reach herd immunity more quickly and get the pandemic under control,” the campaign website states.

“We can finally go out to eat again, meet friends, visit grandparents, travel, see live concerts – just live a normal life again. That’s why it’s time to pull together and get vaccinated.”

Member comments

  1. Or, people who were at risk got jabbed and the rest does not see the risk necessary. Why not admit that?

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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”.