German health experts call for urgent Covid booster jab campaign

A vaccination bus in Frankfurt.
A vaccination bus in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst
Covid-19 infections are rising in Germany - so health experts are urging risk groups to get a booster shot.

The German vaccine advisory panel (STIKO) provisionally recommended that everyone over the age of 70, people with a weakened immune system, people in care facilities, medical staff and people who’ve had the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (also known as Janssen) should get a top-up Covid shot this autumn. 

In view of increasing Covid-19 infections, politicians and experts are campaigning for more awareness – and more speed – on giving out booster vaccinations for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.

READ ALSO: Who can get a top-up Covid shot in Germany?

Booster vaccinations for vulnerable groups are urgently needed, said Dirk Heinrich, chairman of the doctors’ group VirchowBund. Each German state approaches giving out vaccines differently – so there are some delays on giving out booster shots, he added.

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SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach has called on authorities to start a fresh booster-vaccine campaign. 

He told the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe: “In view of the rising number of cases – also among the elderly – a new vaccination campaign for the use of booster vaccinations in this age group is now absolutely necessary.”

What does Germany recommend?

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.

Experts said that for people who received an mRNA jab – BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna – the same vaccine should be used for the third shot if possible. 

People who received two doses of the vector AstraZeneca vaccine are also eligible for a top-up.

In all cases the top-up shot should be given at least six months after the last dose. 

Meanwhile, those who received the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine should be offered a second mRNA dose. STIKO said that’s because there’s a reduced vaccine efficacy with J&J against the more transmissible Delta variant compared to other vaccines. 

About 3.2 million people in Germany received the J&J vaccine. The booster shot for people who’ve had J&J can be offered from four weeks after the first shot. 

Although the German government has published this advice, there may be some changes in the final recommendations which have not yet been released. 

What else are people in Germany saying?

Left Party leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow has also called for a more efficient booster vaccination campaign. “Third vaccinations must now be launched as quickly as possible, the current Covid figures are frightening,” she said.

The president of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), Gernot Marx, told the Funke-Mediengruppe that he sees booster jabs as “playing a very important role in combating the pandemic”. 

Eugen Brysch, director of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, said there had been “sluggish progress” on booster shots. He slammed the fact that just 12 percent of those over 70 had received the offer of a third shot so far. 

It comes against a backdrop of increasing Covid cases. 

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of new Covid-19 cases reported per 100,000 residents within seven days was 110.1 nationwide – compared to 74.4 a week ago.

There are large regional differences – from a 7-day incidence of 53 in the western state of Saarland to 224.3 in central Thuringia.

According to the RKI, the number of Covid patients admitted to hospitals per 100,000 residents in seven days rose to 2.77. The previous maximum hospitalisation incidence was 15.5, which was logged last December. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s real Covid fourth wave has started, says health expert


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