Germany considers Covid vaccination campaign relaunch to convince the undecided

Medical experts and politicians across Germany are calling for more targeted action to convince those who haven't yet been vaccinated against Covid to get their jabs amid a slow uptake.

Germany considers Covid vaccination campaign relaunch to convince the undecided
A sign for vaccines on the 'vaccination train' set up in Berlin recently. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

More than 61 percent of the German population is fully vaccinated against Covid, while 65.9 percent have received at least one dose. 

But health experts say more coverage is needed to get through the autumn and winter. In order to combat the Delta variant of Covid, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) says at least 85 percent of people aged 12 to 59 and 90 percent of people aged 60 and over should be fully vaccinated.

Now there are calls for new tactics, and a fresh vaccination campaign relaunch.

Many unvaccinated people are not anti-vaxers and can be convinced, said Klaus Reinhardt, president of the German Medical Association told DPA.

“To reach these undecideds, the vaccination campaign in Germany must be completely relaunched.”

The call to “roll up your sleeves” was useful in the beginning, he said. “But now we need much more targeted communication measures and low-threshold vaccination offers.

“The vaccination rate is too low throughout Germany, but especially in the eastern federal states,” Reinhardt said, adding that this is a cause for concern in view of autumn and winter.

OPINION: How to explain vaccine hesitancy in Germany 

What are German officials doing so far?

The government wants to give the jab drive a boost with a nationwide campaign from next Monday.

Together with the states, the government is calling for easy-to-access offers to be made in as many places as possible – for example, in sports clubs, at the volunteer fire brigade, in pharmacies or multi-generation houses – with the motto: Hier wird geimpft or ‘vaccinate here’. Vaccination offers will be placed online at:

On Wednesday, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) planned to meet with the head of the RKI, Lothar Wieler, to discuss the status of the vaccination campaign, and what more can be done. 

Ahead of the meeting, Spahn told RTL Direkt that he is surprised at how many people had not yet been vaccinated, even though they were not against it.

“We want to give them an easy opportunity (to get vaccinated),” he said.

The state governments in Saxony and Thuringia, the two regions with the fewest first-time jabs, are also counting on this.

“We see that education and talks are important to convince people who are still hesitant,” Saxony’s health minister Petra Köpping (SPD) told DPA. All available channels are being used, she said. 

READ ALSO: Vaccinated people are not ‘guinea pigs’, says Merkel

Thuringia’s social affairs minister Heike Werner (The Left) appealed to citizens to take advantage of offers.

“We are making a lot of effort to bring vaccinations as close as possible to the people,” Werner said. She referred to vaccination campaigns in shopping centres, at sporting events and walk-in appointments.

Others are sceptical, such as Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller (SPD), who said on Tuesday that “we have done a lot of educational work”. He referred to letter and media campaigns as well as easy-to-access offers. But despite this, everything is going slowly, he said.

“I’m now coming to a point where I think maybe we’ve exhausted what we can do as politicians,” said Müller.

As the Our World in Data chart below shows, daily vaccine doses in Germany have dropped significantly since July. 

‘Inconsiderate not to get vaccinated’

Thomas Krüger, president of the Deutschen Kinderhilfswerks – a children’s charity – called on all adults to take the protective lead out of consideration for children who cannot be vaccinated.

“It is completely inconsiderate not to get vaccinated,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. He said that a lot had been demanded of children in the past months by the closure of schools and daycare centres in order to protect the elderly. Now the consideration must go in the other direction, he said. 

Meanwhile, the director of virology at Essen University Hospital warned of an overload of intensive care units.

“We are slowly damaging the health care system,” Ulf Dittmer told the Rheinische Post. In his clinic, there are 23 Covid patients with severe symptoms, of which 20 are unvaccinated. He said the youngest is just 20-years-old.

Dittmer called for a discussion on compulsory vaccination. The German government has so far ruled this out. 

“We have to talk about that,” Dittmer said. He added that are no free places in North Rhine-Westphalia for treatment with a heart-lung machine due to the number of Covid patients. 

Member comments

  1. First hint of compulsory jabs which usually means it will be coming shortly. What next detention camps? Sound familiar?

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What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?