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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about getting a top-up Covid jab in Germany

Several states across Germany have now started issuing top-up jabs to certain groups of the population. So, who's eligible to get one, and how do you go about it? Here's the latest.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about getting a top-up Covid jab in Germany
A patient receives a consultation for a jab in Berlin-Charlottenburg in the presence of German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier during "Vaccination Week". Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Bernd von Jutrczenka

In August, the Federal Health Ministry announced that it would be rolling out booster shoots for people in need of addition immune protection for autumn.

Announcing the decision from the Health Ministers’ conference, Spahn said the step would be taken as a “precautionary measure” to give people additional protection from Covid over the autumn and winter months, particularly in light of the highly infectious Delta variant. 

Since then, a number of states across Germany have started rolling them out. 

READ ALSO: Germany agrees to offer Covid booster shots from September

So, who’s in line for one now, and when, how and where should they get them? We take a look at the latest.

Who can get a top-up jab in autumn? 

Remember way back in spring when everyone seemed to want a jab and the government was dividing people into ‘priority groups’? Well, those are back in action for booster jabs, in a sense. In Bavaria, for example, priority groups one and two, meaning people over the age of 80 and those with particular immunity issues or severe illnesses, are first in line for their boosters. 

One key divergence from this is that people who’ve only so far received a vector-vaccine (i.e. two shots of AstraZeneca or one shot of Johnson & Johnson) are also eligible for a booster jab. This will be carried out with one of the so-called ‘mRNA’ vaccines, which means either Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, to give this group the additional immunity that is believed to come from mixing and maxing the two types of vaccine

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

Here’s a full list of the groups who are in-line for an additional jab at the moment:

  • People aged 80 and over
  • People in need of care
  • People with disabilities
  • At-risk patients (i.e. people who have had cancer treatment or organ transplants)
  • Individuals who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Johnson & Johnson
  • Medical workers or carers

Bear in mind that all of these groups have to wait at least six months after their last jab to get an additional one, since this is believed to be the period of time it takes for level of protection offered by the vaccines to decline.

Are they doing this in all the German states?

From this month (September), all German states should be rolling out the jabs, which will generally follow the guidelines of the Federal Health Ministry.

That means that GPs and vaccine centres should be instructed to offer the jabs to any of the priority groups at least six month after their last dose of vaccine.

How can I get one?

That partly depends on which of the groups you fall into, and may vary slightly from state to state. For the elderly and those in need of care, mobile vaccination teams will be heading out into the community to visit care homes and other facilities for the vulnerable. 

In some states, you can also get your top-up jab at one of the remaining vaccination centres – though you may need to show evidence of your vaccination history, since due to data protection rules they may not still have that information even if you got your initial jabs there. For most people, however, the jabs will be carried out by their local GP or company doctor on request. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria starts booster Covid jabs for most vulnerable

If you fall into one of the above groups, simply call up your doctor’s surgery or local vaccination centre at least six months after your last jab and let them know you are keen for a booster. Be prepared to show evidence of your need for one, such as your vaccine booklet with your previous vaccination history, or proof of age or illness, if they don’t have this information already. 

How urgently should I get one?

Though people understandably want to have a decent amount of immune protection over autumn and winter, experts and lawmakers have urged most people not to scramble to get their shots at the earliest opportunity.

In an August press conference, Dr. med. Frank Bergmann, chairman of the state doctors’ association KV Nordrhein, said there was no time pressure for booster vaccinations – particularly for those who are otherwise healthy.


Experts believe those who are generally healthy don’t need to rush to get their additional jabs. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire | Paul Hennessy

While the government is keen to get the first and second shots into arms as quickly as possible, the timeline for booster vaccinations is far more relaxed, he indicated. 

“With booster vaccinations, it should be possible to approach this with a sense of calm, as vaccine protection only diminishes gradually,” Bergmann explained. He referred to manufacturer information from BioNTech/Pfizer, which guarantees adequate vaccine protection for at least eight months after the second dose.

“So there remains a certain period of time that should be easy to manage,” Bergmann said.

Will other people get a top-up jab later? 

This what the Health Ministry seems to be planning – although it is highly possible that the next government takes a different route after the September 26th elections.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) completed an order for around 200 million doses of (primarily) mRNA vaccines – enough to give every resident of Germany an addition round of jabs in 2022. More recently, media reports suggested he was considering rolling out boosters to the general population “as a second step” after offering them to those who needed them most.

READ ALSO:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pharmaceutical companies are also touting the benefits of the extra jabs. BioNTech and Pfizer, for instance, have emphasised that a third dose offers the highest level of protection against all currently tested variants, especially the highly contagious Delta variant.

BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin has also claimed that the pandemic cannot be brought under control without regular booster jabs.

A lot, however, may depend on what the scientific studies say, and how bad the next influx of Covid is in autumn – though as we have said, there’s certainly enough vaccine there for everyone. 

Can I register my interest for an extra jab now?

You certainly can, but if your last dose of vaccine was less than six months ago and you don’t fall into any of the ‘priority’ groups, it may not be worth it just yet.

In Bavaria, for example, state health minister Claus Holetschek (CSU) asked those who aren’t in line for a booster yet – but are keen to get one one – to be patient and wait for conclusive scientific data about the benefits of doing so.

However, if you are sure you want one, it probably can’t hurt to make an appointment at your local GP six months after your last jab. They may prefer to wait for guidance from the Health Ministry before giving you one, but depending on your circumstances, it could be possible after a consultation with your doctor. 

Member comments

  1. Germany did not start rolling out the Vaccine properly until around late April time. Seems a bit prematute for the boosters?

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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