German states return more than 2.7 million unused vaccine shots 

Germany has seen a huge drop in demand for Covid jabs recently - and now the 16 states are set to give doses that haven't been used back to the government. 

German states return more than 2.7 million unused vaccine shots 
Millions of vaccine doses - including the Johnson & Johnson vaccines - are being returned from states as the pace of the vaccine roll-out slows to a trickle. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

In total more than 2.7 million vaccination doses are being returned from distribution centres across Germany to the central government. 

Among them are around 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca, according to a paper by the Health Ministry which has been seen by DPA. There are also several unused Johnson & Johnson doses.

The German government has promised to give at least 30 million vaccine doses to developing countries and other regions by the end of the year. 

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

From the distribution centres, 15 of the 16 German states are now returning unused vaccines. The southwestern state of Saarland was the only state not to return extra doses to the federal government, according to the report.  

The government documents revealed that 922,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine alone will be returned from North Rhine-Westphalia – Germany’s most populous state – along with 685,000 doses from Bavaria.

On Monday, August 9th, just 275.758 vaccine shots were administered in Germany. This is barely a fifth of the amount of shots being carried out daily at the height of the vaccination drive. 

As of Tuesday, 55.1 percent of the German population were fully vaccinated, while 62.5 percent had been given their first dose. 

Vaccination on the agenda at Tuesday crunch talks

Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with 16 state leaders on Tuesday to thrash out plans for the coming weeks and months in light of a spike in Covid infection rates.

With the country’s inoculation campaign grinding to a halt, Merkel’s office is reportedly pushing for proposals that would incentivise people to get their shot in autumn. 

These would include extending the requirement to present evidence of vaccination, recovery or a negative test in order to access a wide range of leisure activities, cultural and sports events, gastronomy and other areas of public life. 


If the plans are carried forward, unvaccinated people would need to be tested far more regularly in order to go out to eat, visit the gym, or even visit relatives in a care home, for instance. From October, it’s possible that they would also have to pay for each of these tests out of their own pocket.

But ministers will also consider plans to disallow tests as a means of entry to these venues and events, meaning people who don’t get jabbed would face increasing restrictions on their daily lives. 

Since opinions are divided among state leaders, these plans are likely to lead to heated discussion between the federal and state government.

Member comments

  1. 2.7 million sounds huge, but then you see that 2.6 million were AstraZeneca. People just lost faith from early on with this option.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.


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”.