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COVID-19

Most Covid hospital patients in Germany are unvaccinated, says doctor

A German intensive care doctor says the majority of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital are unvaccinated - but there are some inpatients who've had the jab.

Most Covid hospital patients in Germany are unvaccinated, says doctor
Staff in an intensive care unit in a hospital in Ludwigsburg in January. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Most Covid patients in German hospitals have not been vaccinated, Cologne-based intensive care physician Christian Karagiannidis told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers on Thursday. 

But there are some cases of people who’ve had “vaccination breakthrough infections” (known as Impfdurchbrüche, in German), and have been admitted to hospital.  

Overall around 88 percent of Covid patients admitted to hospital in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia have not had the Covid vaccine. Karagiannidis said this was likely the case across the country. 

“Currently, in North Rhine-Westphalia, we have 12 to 13 percent of Covid patients in clinics with vaccination protection,” said Karagiannidis.

“This rate should be in line with the nationwide rate,” he added. The majority of vaccinated Covid patients are treated in regular hospital wards, he said, but there are also a few rare cases where vaccinated people receive intensive care treatment.

READ ALSO: Why vaccinated people in Germany are still getting Covid

In his experience, those being treated as hospital inpatients who’ve already been vaccinated usually have weakened immune responses.

The latest data from the intensive care register (DIVI)  shows 600 Covid patients are in hospitals across Germany, with 280 of them (47 percent) receiving intensive care treatment. 

On August 5th, the register reported 387 Covid-19 patients in hospitals across Germany, with 206 of those (53 percent) receiving ventilation treatment, signalling a rise in admissions. 

Karagiannidis said that in future, the intensive care registry will also collect and publish information on the vaccination status of Covid patients in ICU.

The doctor said it was important to offer booster jabs, particularly to patients who have a weakened immune system.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS – How the fourth Covid wave in Germany is developing

Should countries give out booster jabs?

Meanwhile, high profile virologist Christian Drosten said most vaccinated people would not need a booster jab against Covid in autumn – but it makes sense to give vulnerable people a top-up.

“The protective effect of Corona vaccines is much better than, for example, influenza vaccines,” he told DPA. He also does not expect the imminent emergence of a new viral variant that is resistant to vaccines.

For the elderly as well as certain high-risk patients, however, Drosten believes a top-up jab this autumn makes sense.

“After six months, the antibody level acquired via vaccination goes down significantly, especially in very old people,” he said.

But he said the important thing was to increase first-time vaccinations in the over 60s. 

The US government announced Wednesday that it expects to provide the entire US population with booster jabs against Covid beginning in September. They said it was to field off the spread of the Delta variant. 

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has slammed nations who are giving out booster jabs when many countries in the world don’t have access to vaccines. 

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

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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