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COVID-19 VACCINES

Motivation to get vaccinated or coercion? Mixed views on Germany’s plan to charge for Covid tests

Germany is set to charge people for rapid tests in October in a bid to encourage more people to get vaccinated. Here's what The Local readers think about the move.

Motivation to get vaccinated or coercion? Mixed views on Germany's plan to charge for Covid tests
A woman being vaccinated in Aue-Bad Schlema, Saxony, in August. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Germany has tightened its ‘Covid health pass’ system to allow only vaccinated, recovered people or those who’ve tested against Covid entry to many indoor places – known as the 3G rules. 

But from October 11th, taxpayer-funded rapid tests will no longer be free except for those who can’t get the vaccine or are not eligible.

The move is to entice more people in Germany to get their Covid jabs after the vaccine campaign stalled. Nearly 65 percent of the population has had at least one jab, and around 60 percent are fully vaccinated. 

We released a 24-hour survey last week to find out your thoughts on Germany’s controversial strategy aimed at increasing vaccinations and controlling the Covid spread.

Let’s start with how many respondents are vaccinated against Covid themselves. 

According to the 72 readers who got in touch with us while the survey was live, 86.1 percent were partially or fully vaccinated. A small number of people hadn’t been vaccinated yet, are pregnant, are not eligible or have been ill. Nearly 10 percent of respondents do not want to get vaccinated. 

We asked what you think about the move to formalise the ‘3G’ entry across the 16 states. The large majority – 70.4 percent – said they think it’s a good idea, while 25.4 percent said it goes too far. 

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When it comes to charging for Covid tests there was a real mix of opinions. More than half – 56.9 percent – said they were in favour of forcing unvaccinated people to pay for tests, while 36.1 percent said they did not like the plans. 

Unvaccinated ‘need to pay for tests’

Lots of readers said the decision by the German government makes sense.

Martyn Cant, 67, in Braunweiler said: “I believe that as the vaccine is for free, everyone who can get immunised should. Therefore if you are not prepared to get the jab, then pay for the test. After all, it’s taxpayers’ money that is being used.”

“If people don’t want to get vaccinated – fine – but it must have a price,” said Cath Johnson, 62, who’s based in Germany.

Richard Peach, 65, in Dortmund, said: “If people refuse to get vaccinated for free, then everyone else should not have to pay for their multiple tests.”

“When a facility is provided to get yourself vaccinated for free, and you don’t use it, then it is justified that you might have to go through additional (paid) tests to enjoy comforts that other vaccinated people enjoy,” said Melvin Chelli, 28, in Saarbrücken.

Justin Wilkins, 47, in Werl said: “It is in everyone’s interests that as many people as possible are vaccinated. Although those who do not wish to be vaccinated must be respected (assuming this is personal choice and not medical necessity), the state cannot be expected to carry them forever.”

Andrei in Berlin said: “If people aren’t willing to be part of the society in order to ensure Covid dims down, then they need to pay for themselves.”

He added that Germany should think about even tougher measures for those who are eligible for the vaccine but refuse it, such as not getting paid time off work if they end up getting Covid. 

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Charging could ‘encourage vaccinations’

A lot of people said they hope having to stump up for rapid tests will push people to get their jabs. 

Aaron White, 32, in Ulm said: “I’m all for it. I think the added pressure to get vaccinated if you can is a great idea. I don’t think the government should be left carrying the bill for people not choosing to get vaccinated even when they can be.”

“Though controversial I believe this will motivate more people to get vaccinated,” added Soma Sekar, 35,  in Berlin. “Living in fear of the virus is no longer acceptable, this is something both sides of the vaccination campaign will agree on.”

There are some groups of workers – such as teachers – who may be worried about being in high-risk Covid situations.  

Emily, who’s a teacher in Germany and had Covid last year, told us she felt “sad, disheartened and angry” at the attitude of many parents regarding Covid tests and the vaccine. She is desperate for as many people as possible to get vaccinated for her own safety. 

A free Bratwurst is a vaccine incentive in Aue-Bad Schlema, Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Emily said: “I believe that many parents of my students think that teachers’ health (or even lives) are worth sacrificing if it means getting students in school, and many of these same parents refuse the vaccine and tell their children to refuse the now optional Covid test in school. 

“They simply do not care if asymptomatic infected children might be infecting adults, and now that we know the vaccine does not prevent reinfection, I am badly frightened. 

“I have pre-existing health conditions that made my first round of Covid hard, and I dread getting the virus again.  I am hoping that the new plan to charge for rapid tests will mean a few more parents decide to get vaccinated, and to get their children vaccinated when that is possible.”

Some readers said they wish their home country would consider making a decision like this. 

Jeffrey Lazar, 74, from Texas, said: “I wish the USA was half as good/half as smart.”

Step towards ‘compulsory vaccinations’

However, lots of people told us they were firmly against the government’s move to charge for Covid tests. 

Some said it was moving towards the path of compulsory vaccination, which Germany has said it will not go down, even for groups of workers such as healthcare employees or teachers. 

Tony S, 53, in Munich said: “This is another step toward making it (the Covid vaccine) compulsory. Not allowing the unvaccinated indoors and charging to obtain rapid test if they wish to go indoors, is effectively making the vaccine compulsory.”

Bibek Sitaula, 32, in Frankfurt said: “It’s too much now, they are forcing everyone to vaccinate now, it seems more politically motivated.”

An anonymous respondent said: “Forcing people to do something they don’t want is an infringement of their rights.”

Rapid tests will cost around €15 to €20 after October 11th, although the price will be set by private providers so could be more expensive.  

David Mitsko, 54, in Berlin questioned how charging people for tests will impact people’s lives if they choose to not get the vaccine, which is within their rights. 

He, said: “It discriminates against poorer people, who will not be able to afford to have tests frequently. It will also hurt many businesses, as more people will choose not be tested as frequently, including visitors to Germany, who may, in fact, decide not to come at all.”

Phil Cooper, 55, in Schömberg said he wants to see fixed prices for the tests. He said: “I see both sides of the argument and would be happy to pay if they are priced reasonably and not hugely inflated like in the UK.”

A few people said they believe the situation will get worse for the unvaccinated. 

Chris Riley, 61, in Bad Homburg, said he got the vaccine “because life will be made difficult in the future without it”.

An anti-vaccine protester wears a ‘no to vaccines’ gilet in Nuremberg in May. Photo: DPA

Free testing should continue

Some respondents to our survey said even though they support everyone getting vaccinated, they weren’t sure about the strategy of the German government.

Christopher G. Wilson, 43, in Berlin said: “I think the idea is to force people to get vaccinated. I don’t know how good things always turn out when you try to force people to do something.”

Anirban Maiti, 32, in Berlin said: “This is directly an attempt to force people to either get vaccinated or pay money for taking part in society. I am vaccinated but if someone does not want to, we should not force people indirectly.”

“Removing the option of free rapid tests will have negative consequences for the management of the health crisis,” said Demetris Karayiannis, 28, in Potsdam.

Vivek Ganesh, 41, in Hannover said: “Free rapid testing should still be continued as the pandemic is not yet over and fully vaccinated people or children are still prone to danger caused by non-vaccinated people.”

Meanwhile, others suggested that rapid tests could remain free some of the time, or even for vaccinated people to monitor their infection status. 

Thomas Boon, 25, in Frankfurt, said: “In general I am in favour of it. I would support keeping them free in circumstances, such as when travelling in or out of the country.”

Member comments

  1. I agree with some of the last commentors. Free tests for those vaccinated or recovered, or unable to be vaccinated, but not for those that simply refuse to have a jab. They quote their “Freedom”, but what about ours?

  2. Medical studies and data clearly indicate that the vaccination solely protects the recipient from a more serious course of disease but does NOT prevent from transmitting nor rules out an infection. For this reason, arguing for forcing the vaccination on everyone as an act of social obligation is unjustified, creates a wrong feeling of security and will at the end not benefit but rather degenerate the trust in political leadership. The counter-measures at this point with dreaming of getting rid of this disease overall when just everybody is vaccinated is just the simple minded dream of political leaders that convinced themselves of this simple solution to a much more complex problem. Logically, with the aim to not overwhelm medical services, the vaccination campaign should have stopped after the majority of people in the vulnerable groups are vaccinated and then become optional for everyone who desires to get it. To mass vaccinate young and healthy teens and post-teenagers has close to no benefit (as data clearly shows that these groups contributed not to hospitalizations nor death counts). Doing this with a vaccine that only has an emergency approval is careless (as side effects do occur) and provokes the suspicion that money plays a role more than medical reasoning.

    1. Thomas, as someone who’s watching corona devastate the US every single day (I live in Texas), this virus is infecting EVERYONE here and isn’t discriminating on who it infects either; infections in infants, young children, and teenagers are going into orbit here in addition to adults and the elderly, and many schools are having to shut down and switch to virtual learning as a result, and of course our hospitals are overwhelmed by people infected and unvaccinated.

      Here’s a story pediatric cases rising in Mississippi from CBS news; hopefully there’s no geo-restrictions, and sadly many are dying from this virus: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-children-mississippi-pediatric-cases/ There was even a one year old infant who died from the virus recently too, but I can’t find the link at the moment, but you’re wrong about saying not to vaccinate teenagers or otherwise healthy people. This virus doesn’t care who it infects/kill!

      Here’s a story on how a pregnant mother died only moments after giving birth due to coronavirus: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-covid-mom-dies-birth-baby/ Thankfully the baby survived, but the mother might’ve have still been alive to hold her had she gotten vaccinated; now all her parents can do is urge everyone else to get the shot.

      Here’s a story on how all ICU beds in Alabama hospitals are full, their staff overwhelmed, and the governor there issuing a state of emergency cause of it: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alabama-covid-icu-beds/

      Here’s another story on all ICU beds in Arkansas full too: https://www.ksla.com/2021/08/25/covid-19-icu-beds-arkansas-now-full-smaller-hospitals-struggling/

      How about an anti-vaxxer who got infected by the very virus that he thought was “fake news” and now has had a change of heart since his entire family was infected as well: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/anti-vaxxer-covid-everyone-get-vaccinated/

      Here’s another skeptic idiot who caught corona and died: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/phil-valentine-dies-covid-conservative-radio-host-vaccine-skeptic/

      My idiot governor caught the virus too, even though he STILL refuses to issue mask mandates: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/greg-abbott-covid-19-positive-texas-governor/

      Lastly, the FDA has officially approved the Pfizer vaccine in the fight against the virus: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vaccine-mandates-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-fda-approval/

      I could go on and on, but long story short you WRONG, this virus is going to destroy this country, and all other countries need to use US as a warning and TAKE THIS VIRUS SERIOUSLY….lest you want to end up like us. “Freedumb” is pointless when you’re either tethered to a ventilator while in a medically-induced coma, or worse you end up dead. So many people here have no empathy and are beyond selfish.

      1. I do not wonder about the anxiety and level of alarmism in your post when I see your media consumption from the links. Of course, individual cases are dramatic and nobody neglects the existing of this virus as well as many other dangerous diseases out there in the world. The best prevention is a healthy lifestyle as data does prove, against your statement, that not everybody gets it and also not everybody falls down dead! The statistic shows (source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/) a huge amount (75%) of people recovering although having being infected. While you are attempting to pull out tragic individual cases (like the media does for clicks and reads) and with that argue for an overall huge risk of dying for basically everyone who catches the virus no matter in which health condition this person is in, the pure statistics tell a different story. Other countries with very high vaccination rates show also still high increases in spread due to the fact that the vaccine not being the perfect solution to this problem even though politics want us to believe so as they dont have a plan B. In Israel there are large amounts of people even vaccinated but still in hospitals. Not in a ratio that would be expected after claiming a 95% effectiveness.

        And to say the last, what we surely should not use the US as a warning as the health of its population is in a sorry state after all these years of propaganda that smoking is good, junk food is no problem, working 60 hours a week and 15 days vaccation is still too much – to make it short, the American lifestyle leads directly into the graveyard.

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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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