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COVID-19

Here’s where (and why) Covid vaccine centres are due to close in Germany

With demand for Covid vaccine shots declining to trickle, seven states in Germany are planning to close a number of their large vaccination centres this month.

Here's where (and why) Covid vaccine centres are due to close in Germany
Berlin Tempelhof vaccination centre closed on July 20th. Now three more of the city's vaccination centres will follow suit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

A symbol of the early days of Germany’s vaccination drive, the state-run vaccine centres in several major cities will close ahead of schedule this August.

Though central government subsidies have been earmarked for the centres until the end of September, at least seven of the 16 states will be closing operations in the near future, according to a report in German daily Welt.

This is largely a result of faltering demand. Since late June, the pace of Germany’s vaccination campaign has slowed considerably – particularly in terms of the number of first jabs being administered. 

As of Monday, 54.8 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated in Germany, while 62.4 percent have had at least one shot.

In early July, just under 60 percent of people had received their first shot, meaning that this figure has crept up just a few percent in a month.

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

Here are the seven states that are planning to shut a number of their centres. 

Baden-Württemberg 

In the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, all eight central vaccination centres are due to close on August 15th, while a number of district vaccination centres will be relocated or combined.

The Stuttgart Culture and Congress Center in Liederhalle, which was the largest vaccination centre in the state, also closed last week. Conferences and other events will once again be held in the venue. 

With 55.6 percent of the population fully inoculated, the vaccination coverage in Baden-Württemberg is slightly ahead of the national average. So far, 60.5 percent of people have received at least one shot.

Bavaria 

In Bavaria, a change in a vaccination strategy has seen two of the states’ 100 vaccination centres close already.

Instead, the state government will choose to focus on “the offer of low-threshold vaccinations on site by the mobile vaccination teams, for example on marketplaces, in shopping centres”, according to the Bavarian Health Ministry.

READ ALSO: 

Berlin

One of the original six vaccination centres has already closed in the German capital, with at least three more delivering their final jabs this month. On July 20th, the Tempelhof vaccination centre closed its doors, with the Velodrom set to follow on August 19th.

By the end of the month, the Arena and Erika-Heß Ice Stadium will also be closing – meaning only Tegel and Messe Berlin will be left standing.

READ ALSO: Berlin offers Covid jabs in vaccination centres without appointments

As of Monday, 53.9 percent of Berliners were fully vaccinated, while 61.8 percent had received at least one shot. 

Bremen

One of Bremen’s three vaccination centres shut at the end of the July, with another due to follow this month. In a press release, the state government said there was “no further need” for the centres. 

In comparison with other states, Bremen has been steaming ahead with its vaccination campaign: 64.5 percent of people in the state are now fully jabbed, while 71.6 percent have now had their first shot.


In the northern city-state of Bremen, 64.5 percent of people are fully vaccinated, and the state government says there is “no further need” for the centres. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Brandenburg 

In Brandenburg, two vaccination centres in Elsterwerda and Oranienburg were closed at the end of July – though 12 more remain in operation.

Hamburg

The city-state of Hamburg only has one large vaccination centre, which is due to close on August 31st. Hamburg has issued first jabs to 64.9 percent of its population, while 52.6 percent are fully vaccinated.

Thuringia 

By the end of August, only one state-run vaccination centre will remain in Thuringia: the one at Erfurt Exhibition Centre. The other three existing centres will close.

“The reasons are, on the one hand, the expiring rental contracts – the halls are required for other purposes such as school sports or events – and on the other hand, the fact that they aren’t being used to their full capacity,” the state Ministry of Health explained.

How will the top-up jab campaign work in autumn?

The government recently announced that it would start rolling out top-up jabs to vulnerable groups from September onwards, as well as people who have so far only been given a viral vector vaccine like AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. 

According to Welt, around 3.3 million people in Germany have been given two doses of AstraZeneca, while 2.4 million have had a shot of Johnson & Johnson. That means that, discounting the people who fall into vulnerable groups like the elderly and chronically ill, 5.7 million people will theoretically be in line for a refresher jab from September onwards.

READ ALSO:

Not all of these people will be in line for their additional jab right away. For the vulnerable groups at least, appointments will be offered six months or more after their last shot.

However, there hasn’t yet been clear guidance about whether the 5.7 people who received viral vector vaccines will also have a six-month interval between jabs, or whether they will be able to get their ‘top up’ right away.

With vaccine centres closing across Germany, questions remain as to how the booster jab campaign will work in practice. 

The Health Ministry and state health ministers have said that they envision the jabs being carried out by mobile vaccination teams in care homes and assisted-living facilities, as well as by GPs.

But it’s unclear if the larger vaccination centres will also need to be brought into use, or if states will keep them as a stand-by option, if demand increases significantly in autumn or winter. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

With Covid infections likely to rise again in autumn, many are wondering whether it makes sense to secure a fourth jab ahead of time. Here's a look at the official recommendations for a second booster and who is eligible to get one.

Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

Germany is currently in a period of relative calm when it comes to Covid infections. After a major spike in cases earlier in summer, the incidence has dropped dramatically and people continue to enjoy their daily lives with relatively few restrictions.

Nevertheless, with the colder months approaching, experts are predicting a fierce resurgence in case numbers and a difficult winter for the health service. Along with the Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), the German Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has urged certain risk groups to book a fourth Covid jab. 

READ ALSO: Germany has passed peak of summer Covid wave, says RKI

But with mixed messages coming from the government and scientists in recent weeks, many are still unclear about whether they could be eligible for a fourth shot. Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the official recommendations?

On Friday, STIKO extended its recommendation for a fourth Covid jab to people aged 60 and over. Previously, a second booster was only recommended for over-70s, people older than five who have weakened immune systems, and healthcare workers who are at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

“STIKO is expanding its recommendation with the primary aim of providing particularly at-risk individuals with even better protection against severe Covid-19 illnesses and Covid-related deaths,” the vaccines panel said in a statement.

For people under the age of 60 who don’t have any immune deficiencies, and those who don’t work in the health or care sectors, there is currently no official recommendation to get a fourth jab. That’s because, according to STIKO, “this group of people would not benefit significantly from an additional vaccine dose”. 

Instead, the vaccines panel recommends three doses of Covid vaccine for individuals over the age of 12 with no pre-existing health conditions. For over-18s, the third jab should be administered after three months, while an interval of at least six months is recommended for 12-17 year olds.

READ ALSO: German vaccines commission recommends fourth Covid jab for over-60s

What do the experts say? 

There has been some disagreement in the medical community about whether an additional booster shot would particularly benefit people who don’t fall into one of the higher risk groups for severe illness. 

In a recent interview with RBB, immunologist Andreas Radbruch said that a second booster jab could help improve immunity for those with imperfect immune systems. 

“But for the vast majority of people, two vaccinations and one infection or three vaccinations are absolutely enough,” he said.

In contrast, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the chief executive of the World Medical Association, spoke out on Monday in favour of a general recommendation for a second booster jab.

Frank Ulrich Montgomery

Frank Ulrich Montgomery, chair of the World Medical Association, speaks at the German Doctors’ Day in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

Welcoming the news that STIKO had expanded its recommendation for a fourth jab to over-60s, Montgomery told RND: “STIKO should additionally recommend that those under 60 years of age, whose last vaccination or infection was at least six months ago, can also receive a second booster vaccination if they wish.”

Earlier this year, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) caused some confusion when he appeared to contradict the advice of STIKO in recommending that young people also get a second booster jab. 

Receiving a fourth vaccination would grant people “a completely different level of safety,” he told Spiegel, adding that people should “get vaccinated of course based on a consultation with their doctor.” 

However, he has since spoken more cautiously and primarily urged over-60s and people who at high risk of severe illness to seek out a fourth jab. 

How can I get the jab if I want it? 

Since there is currently no general recommendation for a fourth Covid shot, people who don’t fall into one of the risk groups named by STIKO may find it slightly more difficult to get a second booster.

According to Montgomery, many hospitals and GPs are unwilling to vaccinate when a positive decision from STIKO is still pending.

“The fact that it is legally possible to be vaccinated is not enough for many,” he said. “STIKO should consider this in its decisions.”

However, people who are keen to get an additional dose of vaccine should nevertheless discuss this option with their doctor, who should be able to advise them further. 

Of course, anyone over 60, health and care workers and those with immune deficiencies can book a jab at a Covid vaccination centre, their doctor’s surgery or at one of the pharmacies that currently offers Covid vaccinations. 

As a general rule, fourth vaccinations should only be administered six months or more after the third jab or most recent Covid infection. They should also be carried out with an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. 

READ ALSO: Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

Is it worth waiting for the new Omicron vaccines?

Two new adapted mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech are on their way later this year. One of these will be modified to offer protection against Omicron subtype BA.4, and another will offer protection against subtype BA.5.

These two subtypes are currently dominant in Germany.

On Friday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said he had ordered enough supplies of the Omicron-adapted vaccines that there would be enough for everyone who wanted one.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD)

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) updates the media on the Covid situation at press conference in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

With the European Medicines Agency (EMA) likely to approve the new vaccines in September, the first doses could be delivered as soon as October.

However, Lauterbach has repeatedly warned people who are at risk of severe courses of Covid not to wait for the Omicron vaccines before getting a fourth jab.

“I strongly advise citizens over 60 to follow the advice of the STIKO and not wait for the new vaccines,” he told RND. 

According to official statistics, just 8.5 percent of the population has received a second booster jab, including 24 percent of over-60s and just 2.4 percent of people aged 18-59.

Further recommendations specific to the Omicron vaccines once more scientific data is available and after they have been approved by the EMA. 

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