Vaccinated people are not ‘guinea pigs’, says Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the safety of Covid-19 vaccines on Tuesday in a rebuke against rival Olaf Scholz who said vaccinated people were "guinea pigs".

Vaccinated people are not 'guinea pigs', says Merkel
People waiting for the 'vaccination train' in Berlin on August 30th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

In what could be Merkel’s last speech in the Bundestag before the elections on September 26th, Merkel called on the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Vaccination works. You protect yourself and your loved ones. Vaccinating brings freedom back to us,” she said, urging people to get their jabs. 

Merkel took aim at SPD chancellor candidate and current vice-Chancellor Scholz who last week came under for using unusual words to promote vaccinations. 

READ ALSO: Merkel backs Laschet for German chancellor as CDU lags in polls 

Scholz told NRW local radio last week that vaccinated people had been “the guinea pigs for those who so far have held off” in a bid to emphasise that the vaccines were safe. 

“50 million have now been fully vaccinated,” he said. “We have all been the guinea pigs for those who have so far held off. So as one of those 50 million, I say – it went well. Please join in.”

On Tuesday Merkel said: “Of course, none of us were and are guinea pigs in any way when we get vaccinated. No one – neither Olaf Scholz nor me – and no one else.”

The vaccines in Germany, she said, had gone through all the necessary phases of clinical testing and all approval procedures.

In the Bundestag debate, Scholz hit back, saying that people could be convinced to get their jabs with humour. 

“If some people don’t want to laugh and get worked up about it, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they don’t have much to laugh about with a view to their poll ratings,” he said, pointing at the conservatives falling ratings in the polls. 

CDU leader and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet also slammed Scholz’s comments.

“People are not guinea pigs in this country,” said Laschet on Saturday in Potsdam. He called on his rival to refrain from using such terms.

Meanwhile, CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak said: “Anyone who describes 50 million vaccinated people as guinea pigs lowers confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

The latest data shows 65.9 percent of the German population has received at least one jab and 61.4 percent are fully vaccinated. Politicians and health experts are desperately trying to convince more people in Germany to get inoculated against the virus. 

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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”.