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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: Why vaccinated people in Germany are still getting Covid

Around one in two people in Germany are fully inoculated against Covid, but infection rates are rising. Here's a look at why that's happening - and why it still pays to get vaccinated.

EXPLAINED: Why vaccinated people in Germany are still getting Covid
A man gets his Covid jab in Wuppertal. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Malte Krudewig | Malte Krudewig

What’s happening?

At around 17.5 new weekly cases per 100,000 people, Germany’s incidence of Covid infections is still very much on the low side – but health experts are concerned at the pace at which the numbers are rising.

At a press conference recently, Health Minister Jens Spahn predicted that if the country continued along its current trajectory, the 7-day incidence of cases could soar over the coming months and end up at 800 cases per 100,000 people.

READ ALSO: Fact check: Will Germany’s Covid incidence really reach 800 by October?

On the other side of the coin, the number of people getting vaccinated in Germany is at a relatively high level, and creeping up bit by bit. As of Tuesday, the proportion of people who’d had both jabs was just shy of the 50 percent mark – meaning every one in two residents of the country is technically protected against Covid-19.

In its latest Covid-19 situation report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) revealed that small proportion of people who had been vaccinated had also been infected with Covid.

Does that mean that Covid vaccines aren’t working?

Far from it. In fact, experts have taken it as a positive sign that vaccinated people account for such a small percentage of the total number of infections over the past few months.

That said, it’s important to understand that not all vaccines are 100 percent effective, and that different vaccines can have different levels of effectiveness against different Covid variants. This is because some variants, such as Delta, are more infectious than others.

READ ALSO: European health authorities warn of surge in Delta variant infections

In general, inoculated people are between 66 and 95 percent protected against getting an infection in the first place – depending on the type of vaccine and the variant in question. Other factors such as age and existing illnesses can also come into play.

Here’s where it gets more complicated, though, since being infected does not necessarily mean getting severely ill, so if you get infected after being vaccinated, you could well escape with nothing more than a runny nose.

Immunology expert Carsten Watzl points out on Twitter that vaccinations seem to be offering good protection against the Delta variant in Italy.

So how many of the new cases in Germany were fully vaccinated?

Since February 1st, 2021, 1,425,729 new Covid infections have been recorded by the Robert Koch Institute. Of these, 6,125 were so-called “vaccination breakthroughs” (or Impfdurchbrüche, in German), meaning cases in which the individual had received a full course of doses but nonetheless become ill with Covid.

That means that only around 0.45 percent of the new cases in Germany have involved people who are fully vaccinated. The vast majority of people who became ill from Covid were people with no existing immunity, as well as a certain proportion of people who had also recovered from the virus in previous months. 

Can vaccinated people still get hopitalised from Covid?

It is possible, but once again, it largely depends on whether the individual is particularly vulnerable to what are known as ‘severe courses’ of Covid.

These high risk groups, such as the elderly or those with a weakened immune system, have a reduced risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid after getting vaccinated. However, in comparison with young and healthy people who have had a vaccine, the chance of getting very ill or being hospitalised is naturally higher.

Going back to the RKI’s stats, just under a third (29 percent) of the people who became ill with Covid after getting vaccinated were hospitalised. Of these, none were under the age of 18, two percent were between 18 and 59 years old, and 27 percent were over the age of 60.

According to science journalist Volkart Wildermuth, if people over the age of 80 have a 10 percent chance of dying from Covid, vaccination can reduce this to one percent. “That’s a big difference,” he told Deutschland Funk on Monday.

READ ALSO: Merkel urges Germans to get vaccinated amid ‘exponential growth’ of Covid infections

In addition, health experts believe that every jab does its bit to protect the populace as a whole. If Germany manages to put shots in the arms of at least 85 percent of its 12-59 year olds, the country could finally attain those two much sought-after words: herd immunity.

Member comments

  1. Stop pcr testing at 45 cycles and reports from the CDC have now stated that lateral flow and antigen tests are providing false positives by a very large percentage.

    1. What is “very large”? Please be more specific if you are going to post a quasi-scientific comment.
      Thanks!

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COVID-19 VACCINES

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

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