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COVID-19

Who can get a Covid-19 booster shot in Germany?

Germany is now recommending that everyone over 70 gets a top-up Covid-19 injection. Other groups of the population are being asked to get it too, including those who've had the J&J jab. Here's the latest.

A doctor documents a booster Covid-19 jab in a vaccination booklet.
A doctor documents a booster Covid-19 jab in a vaccination booklet. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

States across Germany have been issuing top-up jabs to certain groups of the population after the federal Health Ministry announced in August that it would be rolling out booster shoots for people in need of addition immune protection.

The move is a “precautionary measure” according to Health Minister Jens Spahn to give people more protection from Covid over the autumn and winter months, particularly in light of the more transmissible Delta variant. 

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

What’s the latest?

On October 7th, the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO), which advises the government on vaccine matters, recommended in principle “a third vaccination, the so-called booster, for all people over 70 years of age”.

STIKO recommended booster vaccinations for people with a weakened immune system in September. Extra jabs are also recommended for residents of old people’s homes, nursing staff and other employees with direct contact to people in outpatient and inpatient care facilities.

The booster jab in Germany is an mRNA vaccine – that’s Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.

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 top-up jab. This is also carried out with one of the mRNA vaccines, to give this group the additional immunity that is believed to come from mixing and maxing (Kreuzimpfung) the two types of vaccine

Here’s a glance at who is eligible for a booster shot in Germany right now: 

  • People aged 70 and over
  • Residents in care homes 
  • People in care facilities, facilities for integration assistance and other facilities with vulnerable groups
  • People with a weakened immune system (for example those with autoimmune diseases or who have had a transplant)
  • Individuals who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Johnson & Johnson
  • Medical workers or carers (including care home employees)

Should I wait a certain period of time after my last jab?

People should generally 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 the level of protection offered by the vaccines to decline.

As Germany had a priority list at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, six months or more has passed for many of the groups eligible for the booster jab.

But for people with immunodeficiency, STIKO recommends the third vaccination dose as early as four weeks after the second jab. It may depend on your personal circumstances so check with your GP.

A Local reader also pointed out to us that STIKO advises people who’ve had one shot of Johnson & Johnson to get a booster shot four weeks after their jab.

STIKO said that most Covid-19 vaccination breakthrough cases in Germany have involved people who got the J&J vaccine, which is sometimes called Janssen. 

“Furthermore, a comparatively low vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant was observed for the Janssen vaccine in contrast to the other licensed vaccines,” STIKO said.

Due to the insufficient vaccination protection after the only one recommended vaccine dose so far with this vaccine, the STIKO recommends optimising basic immunisation with the COVID-19 vaccine Janssen with an mRNA vaccine as a further dose. People who have received one vaccine dose of Covid-19 Vaccine Janssen so far should receive an additional mRNA vaccine dose starting 4 weeks after the Janssen vaccination.”

How many booster jabs are being given out?

According to figures released on Friday, around 60,000 top-up shots are being administered every day throughout Germany. 

In Germany, more than 77 percent of people of vaccine-eligible age (aged 12 and above) have received at least one Covid shot. A total of 73.7 percent have been fully vaccinated.

Why are people getting a booster jab?

STIKO says vaccination protection after Covid jabs “decreases over time, especially with regard to the prevention of asymptomatic infections and mild courses of disease”.

In older age, the immune response after vaccination is also lower overall, and so-called vaccination breakthroughs, i.e. illnesses despite complete vaccinations, can more often also lead to a severe course of the disease.

The patients who end up in intensive care despite vaccination are in the vast majority of cases over 80, or people over 60 with particular immune deficiencies, said DIVI President Gernot Marx in an interview with BR24.

“Here, the Commission’s recommendation is that a third booster vaccination is recommended for this age group and this group of patients,” he said. “And that is also quite clearly our recommendation. And this also includes those who care for the patients on a daily basis. Like myself. I too have taken up our hospital’s offer and have been vaccinated a third time.”

READ ALSO: What’s the state of the Covid pandemic in Germany?

How can I get the jab?

That partly depends on which of the groups you fall into, and can vary 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 will probably have to show evidence of your vaccination history, since due to data protection rules they may no longer 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. Check with your GP if you have any questions. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria starts booster Covid jabs for most vulnerable

If you fall into one of the groups, call up your doctor’s surgery or local vaccination centre 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. 

Who pays for the booster jab?

The vaccination is free of charge, just like the other doses. The federal government pays for the vaccine with taxpayer funds, and the states and health insurance funds finance the vaccination centres.

Does the top-up vaccination have new side effects?

So far, no new side effects or vaccine reactions have been reported. In the USA, where more than two million people have already received a third dose, some local reactions have become slightly more common after the third dose. These include pain at the injection site.

Christoph Spinner, infectiologist and pandemic officer at the Rechts der Isar Clinic of the Technical University of Munich, says the side effects are comparable to those of the first two injections.

Who can’t get a booster shot right now?

People who’ve been double-jabbed with an mRNA vaccine and don’t fall into the above groups don’t qualify for a top-up shot at the moment. 

Most medical professionals consider the recommendations to be the right way forward. 

Will these groups get a jab later?

This what the Health Ministry seems to be planning – although it is possible that the next government takes a different route.

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.

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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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