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COVID-19 VACCINES

Bavaria starts booster Covid jabs for most vulnerable

The southern state of Bavaria has started offering booster shots to the very elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Bavaria starts booster Covid jabs for most vulnerable
People waiting for a vaccine in Munich in July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

People over the age of 80, nursing home residents and those with immune deficiencies can get a booster shot, as part of Germany’s plans to tackle the fourth wave. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) said that doctors and vaccination centres in Bavaria will offer the additional vaccinations against Covid from Monday.

The move is a precautionary measure aimed at offering additional immune protection for the people who most need it.

Experts say that immunity built up during the first and second Covid injections can decline over time, so an additional dose can act as a top-up to increase protection.

READ ALSO: Who’s about to get a top-up Covid shot in Germany – and why?

Focus on care homes

The prerequisite is that those eligible must wait at least six months after their last vaccine dose before they get their top-up. 

Holetschek recommended that vaccination centres and doctors in private practices first concentrate on people living in care facilities, because that’s where Covid vaccines were first given out at the end of 2020. 

He added that any employees of these facilities who have not yet received a jab can also get their vaccinations without red tape.

The additional jabs will be one of the two mRNA vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. The booster jabs are entirely optional for everyone. 

People who were given a vector vaccine – that’s AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson – will also be eligible for a booster shot. But they also have to wait for the six-month interval to pass before they can receive it.

Holetschek stressed the importance of continuing with the first and second doses to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

“The booster vaccinations will not be at the expense of first and second vaccinations. We have enough vaccine. First vaccinations continue to have the highest priority,” he said. 

Vocabulary

Booster vaccinations – (die) Auffrischungsimpfungen

People with immune deficiencies – Menschen mit Immunschwäche

Protection – (der) Schutz 

Prerequisite – (die) Voraussetzung 

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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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.

READ ALSO:

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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