German Health Minister calls for vaccine centres to reopen as Covid numbers surge

Jens Spahn, Germany's health minister, has appealed to the leaders of the federal states to open vaccine centres back up in order to speed up the rate at which elderly people receive their booster jabs against Covid-19.

A vaccine centre in Rhineland-Palatinate.
A vaccine centre in Rhineland-Palatinate. dpa | Uwe Anspach

“The states should now prepare to open the vaccination centers, which have been kept on standby since the end of September,” Spahn told the Rheinische Post newspaper. “We need to do this so that as many people as possible receive a booster vaccination as quickly as possible.”

Spahn also suggested that everyone over 60 should be invited in writing to be vaccinated for a third time. The German government wants to give booster jabs to elderly and chronically ill people in order to pep up their immune response against Sars-Cov-2 ahead of the winter.

“Current data from Israel shows that booster jabs can make a crucial difference in breaking the fourth wave,” Spahn said.

The health minister urged state leaders to meet with the federal government to discuss booster jabs at a new coronavirus summit, a format that was typical at the height of the crisis. 

He also reiterated that everyone is entitled to receive a booster vaccination.

The Stiko vaccine commission recommends the booster jab for people over 70, residents and caregivers in nursing homes, caregivers with direct contact with the elderly, and people with a weakened immune system.

Currently, about two-thirds of people in Germany are fully vaccinated.

On Monday morning, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 9,600 new infections with the coronavirus and a rise in the 7-day incidence to 155 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. A week ago the 7-day incidence stood at 110.

‘Not good enough’

Irritation at the slow pace of vaccinations at GPs practises came from the Green party at the weekend.

“Since we’ve closed most vaccination centers, GPs practices have not met the expectations we’ve had for them, neither with the first nor with the booster vaccinations,” Green Party health expert Janosch Dahmen told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

“The pace of first and second vaccinations and boosters is not good enough,” he said.

Dahmen expressed concern at the current situation on hospital wards.

“Already in the next few weeks, the number of intensive care patients could rise again to as many as 3,000. If a severe wave of influenza is added to this, we are running into a catastrophe,” he warned.

SEE ALSO: Merkel sounds alarm at Covid resurgence in Germany

Member comments

  1. As 65% of people declining to be vaccinating say there is “no way” they will get vaccinated, I’m not sure it makes sense to open vaccine centers if they will not be used.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.