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LIVING IN GERMANY

‘Milestone’: More than half of German population fully vaccinated

More than half the population of Germany is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Wednesday, but concerns are growing about a slowdown in uptake.

'Milestone': More than half of German population fully vaccinated
Doctor Christina Kronlage vaccinating a visitor at the zoo in Wuppertal on July 18th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Malte Krudewig | Malte Krudewig

“41.8 million Germans (50.2 percent) now have full protection, while 61.1 percent have received at least one shot. The more people who get vaccinated, the safer we will be in autumn and winter,” Spahn wrote on Twitter.

He said it was “another milestone” for the country’s inoculation campaign.

Germany’s vaccination campaign accelerated in the spring after a sluggish first few months, yet the country remains some way off the 80 percent targeted for herd immunity.

The inoculation drive has slowed to a snail’s pace in recent weeks, sharpening fears of a fourth wave of infections driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

The Our World in Data chart below shows the slowing number of daily vaccines administered in Germany.

Out of all the 16 states, the city state of Bremen is in the lead with roughly 58.3 percent of residents fully vaccinated, and 70.1 percent of people partially jabbed. 

Saxony is the furthest behind on both counts with around 46.1 percent of people fully jabbed, and about 51.8 percent of residents receiving at least one shot so far.

The percentage of the population fully vaccinated in German states. Source: Robert Koch Institute

German journalist Olaf Gersemann tweeted the comparisons for German states for residents who’ve received at least one jab against Covid.  

Germany desperately trying to convince vaccine sceptics 

With case numbers also rising, the debate over how to convince more people to take the vaccine is set to become a key issue in the national elections scheduled for September 26th.

Unlike other European countries such as France and Greece, Germany has so far ruled out introducing compulsory jabs for certain parts of the population.

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to get vaccinated to curb what she called a “clear and worrying dynamic” in the infection rates.

“Every vaccination… is a small step towards a return to normality,” she said.

Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun has also mooted possible further restrictions on public life for the unvaccinated, even if they can show a negative test.

“Vaccinated people will definitely have more freedom than unvaccinated people” if case numbers rise again in the autumn, said Braun.

Germany has seen low infection numbers over the summer compared to many of its European neighbours, but cases have been creeping up over the past weeks.

FACT CHECK: 

On Wednesday, official figures showed 2,768 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, while the incidence had risen again to reach 15 cases per 100,000 over a seven-day period.

According to the Robert Koch Institute public health agency, the Delta variant now accounts for more than 80 percent of all new infections in Germany.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Where – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

Three German states have started rolling out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant. Here's who's eligible to get a jab and how to go about it.

Where - and how - people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

What are the Omicron vaccines and how are they different?

In the latest phase of the Covid pandemic, the Omicron variant has been by far the most dominant variant worldwide. Though Omicron is believed to cause milder courses of illness than preceding variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and adept at evading 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.

Like their previous Covid vaccines, the latest from BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, a recently developed vaccine type that teaches our bodies to produce an immune response when exposed a molecule known as a messenger RNA. The difference is that these vaccines are what’s known as “bivalent”, meaning they contain both a component of the original strain of Covid alongside a component of the BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subtypes respectively.

READ ALSO: EU approves new dual-strain Covid vaccines in time for autumn booster campaigns

That means they’re designed to both offer protection against Covid caused by previous variants as well as the new Omicron subtypes. 

As with other Covid vaccines, the Omicron vaccines are only believed to offer greater protection from infection for a short time after getting the jab. However, studies suggest that they continue to offer good protection against severe courses of illness. 

Where are the jabs being rolled out in Germany?

So far, only a handful of northern German states are offering the new BA.4 and BA.5 vaccine, though GPs have been able to order doses of Moderna’s BA.1 vaccine for a few weeks now.

One of the first states offering the latest Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is Berlin, where both doctors’ practices and the Ring Center Vaccination Centre in Friedrichshain have been providing Omicron vaccinations since Tuesday.

A list of clinics with doses of the specially adapted vaccines can be found here (in German). Alternatively, people can head to the vaccination clinic at the Ring Center between 9am and 7:30pm daily, with or without an appointment. 

In Lower Saxony, GPs are currently able to obtain up to 240 doses of the new BA.4/BA.5 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech. Vaccination centres such as the Impfzentrum am Landtag in Hannover are also offering the new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

Around 145 mobile vaccination teams are also expected to receive doses of the new vaccine over the course of the week, meaning people who aren’t able to get a jab at their doctors’ surgery or vaccination centre yet can look out for pop-up clinics in places like shopping malls and on the high street.

In Bremen, the latest BA.4/BA.5 adapted vaccine from Pfizer has been used as the standard booster shot in a number of vaccination centres since Thursday. People who are interested in the Omicron vaccine can get it at the vaccination centre Am Brill, in the vaccination centres in Bremen-Nord, Bremen-Ost and at the centre in Bremerhaven. Mobile vaccination teams have also received doses of the new vaccine.

Due to the current high level of demand, people are being advised to book an appointment ahead of time at www.impfzentrum.bremen.de. 

Doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Omicron vaccine are expected to be rolled out in other German states in the coming weeks. 

Are the new vaccines recommended for everyone?

On September 20th, Germany’s Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) updated its guidance to recommend that the latest Omicron vaccines are used when doctors are giving out booster jabs. 

That means that anyone who hasn’t had a third dose of Covid vaccine should soon be able to get an Omicron booster as standard. 

However, STIKO currently only recommends second boosters (or fourth jabs) for certain groups who are at risk of severe courses of Covid: people over the age of 60, nursing home residents, staff at care homes and hospitals and people with existing immune system deficiencies. 

For this group, the fourth dose should only be administered more than six months after the third dose, according to STIKO. This can be reduced to four months in exception circumstances.

People who don’t fall into any of these categories may still be able to get a dose of one of the newest Omicron vaccines after a consultation with their doctor. 

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

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