German vaccines panel considers recommending booster jabs for all

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
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.

“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.

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“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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