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SCHOOLS

German Ethics Council advisor wants mandatory Covid jabs for teachers

Wolfram Henn, a human geneticist who sits on the German Ethics Council, is calling on the government to make Covid vaccination compulsory for teachers and day-care workers.

German Ethics Council advisor wants mandatory Covid jabs for teachers
A school pupil puts his hand up in class at the Fritz Carsen School in the Berlin district of Britz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

“Anyone who chooses of their own free will to work with vulnerable people takes on a special professional responsibility,” he told regional paper Rheinische Post. 

“We need mandatory vaccination for personnel in schools and nurseries.”

At present, the EU-approved vaccines are only permitted for over-12s. While adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 are able to get a jab, however, Germany’s Standing Vaccines Commission has not yet issued a firm recommendation that they do so – unless they have a pre-existing condition that might make them particularly vulnerable to Covid. 

According to Henn, teachers and nursery workers have an obligation to protect the children they work with – especially those under 12.

Although children are considered to have a fairly low risk of getting seriously ill from Covid, they can still bring home the virus to their families, he added.

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On Sunday, French media sources reported that the country’s public health advisor was calling on the government to introduce mandatory vaccination for medical professionals. President Macron is expected to make an announcement on this on Monday evening.

Speaking to Rheinische Post, Henn said that people who have professional contact with other vulnerable groups should also have a compulsory jab. 

The move would particularly protect those who are undergoing intense courses of treatment for diseases such as cancer, or who are otherwise unable to get a vaccine due to their weakened immune system, he said.

First jabs sink to February levels

With almost 60 percent of the German population having received at least one shot, the vaccination drive continues to drag it feet.

On Monday, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) tweeted to say that physicians had administered “as few first doses… as in February,” when Germany was struggling to gets its inoculation campaign off the ground. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Covid vaccine demand is dropping in Germany

“Unlike February, we now have enough vaccines,” Spahn added. “The fact remains: please get vaccinated!”

According to the governmental vaccination tracker Impfdashboard.de, just over 221,000 people in Germany received a jab on Sunday.

That’s around a sixth of the daily jabs that Germany was achieving when the campaign finally picked up pace in May. 

READ ALSO: Germany vaccinates record number of people in one day

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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.

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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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