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COVID-19 VACCINES

Car parks, job centres and festivals: How Germany is trying to get Covid jabs to everyone

In view of the slowing demand for Covid shots in Germany, lots of states are trying to think outside the box to get the vaccine out to more people - and to convince sceptics.

Car parks, job centres and festivals: How Germany is trying to get Covid jabs to everyone
People waiting for a vaccine jab at the weekly market in Bad Essen, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Friso Gentsch

Campaigns are planned in car parks, at events, in community centres, churches and mosques – and even in job centres, according to state governments.

The aim is to provide uncomplicated vaccination opportunities to people, helping them avoid worrying about booking appointments.

Some states have already been thinking outside the box. Parts of Lower Saxony have been offering walk-in jabs at outdoor markets. In Berlin, neighbourhood clinics have been set up around the city on weekends since May. 

Health experts and politicians have been calling for more creative solutions to get jabs into peoples’ arms.

“Where young people are, it must be possible for them to get vaccinated by mobile vaccination teams without any effort,” The Social Democrats’ Karl Lauterbach told broadcaster ZDF. Lauterbach suggested shisha bars and other nightlife spots as possible vaccine locations.

Over the past two weeks, the number of vaccinations per day in Germany has slowed down. 

The latest figures show 57.6 percent of the population has had at least one jab, and 40.8 percent are fully vaccinated. 

READ ALSO: Why Covid vaccine demand is dropping in Germany

Here’s an overview of the ideas put forward by some states to boost vaccinations locally:

In BRANDENBURG, the health ministry wants to launch another vaccination campaign after the end of the summer holidays, targeting younger people for the first time. “We want a paradigm shift: the vaccine should come to the people, not the people to the vaccine, as has been the case so far,” ministry spokesman Dominik Lenz told DPA. The goal is to offer uncomplicated jabs. “Vaccinations in car parks, on the beach and at festivals, without an appointment,” said Lenz. Talks are being held with the districts.

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

In HAMBURG, mobile teams are to be deployed for campaigns, a spokesperson for the health authority said. From the end of July, vaccination offers are planned for up to 40,000 recipients of social benefits – appointments are to be made directly with the job centre like usual counselling appointments. The jabs will then also take place close to home at the usual job centre location. In parallel, vaccination services are planned in community centres and, in further steps, in schools, churches and mosques. The goal is to reach people who are willing to be vaccinated, but who have not yet initiated appointments themselves.

“Spontaneous” vaccination clinics such as those in market places are not currently planned in Hamburg, the spokesperson said, adding that the aim should be for a “dignified framework” and education to “ensure that the second vaccination is carried out”. The spokesperson also said that incentives are currently not planned.

People waiting for an appointment at a vaccination centre in Leipzig. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

In RHINELAND-PALATINATE, the use of vaccination buses is being considered so that people can get shots without registering, for example in market places or shopping streets. Meanwhile, the Federal Employment Agency and food banks are being consulted to see what’s possible. It is expected that from next week onwards, people will also be able to choose a vaccination centre. Until now, this was linked to the place of residence. 

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

In SAXONY-ANHALT, districts are already advertising new campaigns, a spokeswoman for the social affairs ministry said – from jabs in the shopping centre to extended opening hours of vaccination centres – or vaccination days where no booked appointment is needed.

In BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG, the social affairs ministry said with regard to the vaccination centres: “Those who haven’t looked for appointments lately now have good chances again.” Vaccination campaigns are also to come, for example in front of supermarkets or at other central and easily accessible locations, minister Manne Lucha (Greens) told the Stuttgarter Zeitung and the Stuttgarter Nachrichten.

In SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, vaccination programmes are already offered at universities, among other places. Mobile teams are also working with harvest workers, according to a ministry spokesperson. There are also “neighbourhood vaccinations” in residential areas. At so-called open-house campaigns, people can also get their shots without an appointment at some vaccination centres. According to the ministry, jabs in pedestrian zones are not currently planned.

SAXONY is hosting a vaccination summit on July 20th. People in the state are already able to get vaccinated without an appointment from this month onwards. The head of the state chancellery, Oliver Schenk (CDU), says he wants to look at incentives to get people on board. 

In NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA, 150,000 appointments are still available at the vaccination centres this week and 212,000 have been booked. according to health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU). “This means that people have no problem at all booking a vaccination appointment,” he said. Next week, more than 300,000 appointments can be made. The situation is also easing for GPs and company doctors. 

Meanwhile, THURINGIA, is trying out incentives like special ‘student vaccination days’.

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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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