German vaccines panel considers recommending booster jabs for all

The Standing Vaccines Commission (Stiko) is considering issuing a recommendation for everyone in Germany to receive a booster Covid jab, regardless of age or other risk factors.

Doctor prepares Covid vaccine dose
At the vaccination centre at Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, a doctor prepares a dose of Covid vaccine for a patient. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

“Stiko is currently examining very intensively whether it will recommend booster vaccinations for all population groups,” the chairman of Stiko, Thomas Mertens, told the Funke Media Group on Tuesday.

He said there was data from international studies that spoke in favour of widespread boosters, although it would have to be examined to what extent these results were applicable to Germany.

“A decision on this will be made in a few weeks,” Mertens said. In the case of such a general recommendation for booster vaccinations, the decisive question would be whether this could slow down the further spread of the virus, he added.

So far, Stiko has only recommended booster vaccinations for people over 70 and those who have been given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Health Ministry, meanwhile, has been recommending jabs for anyone who’s exclusively had a viral vector vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca, those who work with vulnerable people, over-70s and people with weak immune systems. 

On Friday, however, the acting Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn (CDU), pointed out that according to the vaccination ordinance, anyone who wants a booster jab is currently entitled to one.

READ ALSO: Covid booster jabs possible for all, says German Health Minister

“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,” he told RBB Inforadio. Spahn was given an additional dose of vaccine on Thursday. 

German Health Minister receives booster vaccine
German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) receives a booster Covid vaccination on October 28th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bundesgesundheitsministerium | Jan Pauls

The General Practitioners’ Association criticised the claim that everyone should be able to get a jab. If healthy people rush to get an additional shot with their GP, it will pile undue pressure on physicians to discuss the need for a booster jab with everyone, they said.

Many of the major vaccination centres were closed in August and September, meaning most people have to rely on pop-up mobile clinics and their GP in order to arrange a booster jab. 

On Monday, Spahn called on states to reopen these centres to allow elderly and vulnerable people to get their top-up shots as quickly as possible. 

According to government data released on Tuesday, just over two-thirds (66.7 percent) of the German population is fully vaccinated, while 69.4 percent have received at least one dose.

According to the RKI, however, this is likely to be lower than the actual figure: underreporting of vaccinations from doctors’ surgeries means that the real figure could be up to five percent higher.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid vaccination rate higher than official stats, says RKI

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German vaccine commission ‘to recommend fourth Covid jab for over 60s’

Germany's Permanent Vaccination Commission (Stiko) is set to recommend that all people over 60 get a booster jab against the coronavirus, according to a report in Bild newspaper.

German vaccine commission 'to recommend fourth Covid jab for over 60s'

While the report has not yet been officially confirmed, Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Twitter on Monday: “Thanks to the #Stiko that the recommendation of a 4th vaccination is now coming for the over 60 age group.”

Lauterbach, who has advised that all adults get a fourth jab, added that this was an “important step” in the right direction.

People over 60 should not wait for an adjusted Omicron vaccine, Lauterbach said in his tweet Monday. “The risk is already there. Existing vaccines protect against severe disease.”

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s disease prevention agency, did not immediately comment on the report.

According to Bild, a precondition for getting a fourth jab is that the first booster jab, or the person’s last bout of Covid was at least six months ago.

Up until now, Stiko has only recommended the second booster for people over 70 years of age, people in care facilities, people with immune deficiencies and those with an increased risk of severe Covid 19 symptoms, as well as staff in medical facilities and nursing homes.

The European Medical Agency (EMA) has previously called on member states to offer second booster jabs to people over 60. Lauterbach had also repeatedly brought a second booster for broader population groups into the discussion. 

READ ALSO: Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister