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COVID-19 TESTS

Leading doctor calls for compulsory tests for everyone returning to Germany, including vaccinated

Everyone should have to be tested for Covid when they return to Germany from abroad, even those who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, the head of the World Medical Association said on Saturday.

Leading doctor calls for compulsory tests for everyone returning to Germany, including vaccinated
"If you can afford a trip abroad, you can afford a rapid test:: Head of the World Medical Association Frank Ulrich Montgomery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

Frank Ulrich Montgomery said that such a step would be reasonable, referring to the increasing number of cases of so-called vaccine escape, where some people still get symptomatic infection despite being vaccinated.

“Everyone, without exception, arriving in the country must show a negative Covid test, including those who have been vaccinated and/or have recovered from Covid,” he told Germany’s Funke Media group on Saturday,

Since August 1st, everyone over the age of 12 — if they have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from the virus — must show a negative test when they return to Germany, irrespective of whether they travelled by plane, train or car.

“If you can afford a trip abroad, you can afford a rapid test,” said Montgomery.

As well as calling for compulsory testing for all travellers, he said he also wanted to see more rights being offered to vaccinated people to increase vaccination levels in the country.

He highlighted the example of France as proof this worked well: “You can no longer go to a restaurant or to the cinema there if you haven’t been vaccinated,” he said.

Although the increasing number of Covid cases was a concern, he said that the fact that almost two-thirds of the population had now been vaccinated meant that “it will not be as dicey as last year, but it’s still worrying. Because we still have a huge gap of unvaccinated people in the 18-59-year-old age group”. 

He said everything should be done to encourage unvaccinated people to have their jabs: “But bonuses, free beer or sausages won’t be of use, only rights for vaccinated people”.

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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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