Covid booster jabs possible for all, says German Health Minister

Germany Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) has reiterated calls for vulnerable groups to get a Covid booster vaccination - and it's now possible for everyone to get a top-up jab as long as they discuss it with their doctor first.

Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine
A doctors' assistant prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Booster jabs are recommended for people who were vaccinated with J&J. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“We have more than enough vaccine,” Spahn told RBB Inforadio on Friday when pressed to explain why he himself had got a top-up jab on Thursday. 

At present, a booster vaccination is primarily recommended for select groups of people who are considered to be more at risk from the Delta variant over winter, he explained.

This includes people over 70, people who are in need of care, people with pre-existing conditions, and those who work in the healthcare system or with vulnerable people.

It also includes people who have exclusively been vaccinated with the two so-called ‘viral vector’ vaccines: AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. 

“For everyone else, it’s nonetheless possible,” he said. “Everyone who gets a top-up jab, who discusses that with their doctor, they’re also doing something to ensure that we come through winter safely.” 

People who get additional vaccine protection also have a smaller chance of infecting others with Covid, he added. 

Asked if healthy people who got a third jab after two shorts of an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna were taking doses from more vulnerable people, Spahn said no.

“We have more than enough vaccine – in fact, we have so much that we’re also able to share it with the rest of the world,” he explained. 

For the majority of people, a gap of at least six months between the last dose of vaccine and a booster jab is recommended.

People who have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson, however, can get an additional jab four weeks after their last one. The same applies to people with weak immune systems. 

Jens Spahn gets booster jab
Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) gets a booster jab on October 28th, 2021. Spahn has said top-up jabs are now available for everyone. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bundesgesundheitsministerium | Jan Pauls

People who don’t fall into a risk group will likely have to go through their GPs in order to book an additional shot if they want one, though it may also be possible at larger vaccination centres.

At the Health Ministers’ Conference in Lindau next week, Spahn said he would put pressure on the states to write to over-60s in particular and invite them to get an additional shot if they hadn’t already.

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

‘More careful, more mindful’

Infection rates have been rising rapidly over the past week or so in Germany.

On Friday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people went up almost 10 points to 139. 

Meanwhile, doctors are sounding the alarm about intensive care units filling to capacity.

Asked whether he shared doctors’ concerns about hospitalisations, Spahn said experts had been predicting these increases for a long time. 

“What is important now is that we do not let the number of people in intensive care units in the hospitals increase too much,” he said. “That we are more careful, more mindful of each other again.”

This includes getting a booster jab, he said, as well as introducing special testing concepts in places where there are lots of vulnerable people, such as in nursing homes.

Spahn plans to call on states to make testing of staff in care facilities mandatory again, even for those who are fully vaccinated.

The Health Minister is still in office in a caretaker capacity after the federal elections in September, but it is expected that a new government will be in place by mid-December. 

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now