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COVID-19

German health ministers recommend Covid booster jabs for all

Germany's regional and federal health ministers on Friday called for Covid booster jabs for everyone - not just risk groups - as the country scrambles to tackle a surging fourth wave of infections.

People queue for a vaccination bus in Notzingen, Baden-Württemberg.
People queue for a vaccination bus in Notzingen, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

“The federal states agree that everyone who had their second jab six months ago or longer should be able to get an appropriate booster,” Bavarian health minister Klaus Holetschek told a press conference.

Outgoing federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has also called for booster jabs for all, but the STIKO vaccine commission has so far recommended them only for those aged over 70 or with preexisting health conditions.

Germany registered 37,120 new infections in the past 24 hours on Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency – a record rise for the second day running.

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The health ministers from Germany’s 16 states had met for two days of talks on how to tackle the alarming trend. 

Spahn said Covid health pass entry rules to indoor events or restaurants (known as 3G or 2G in Germany) would become even more important in winter. 

The consensus is “that we need more monitoring of 3G (rules) in everyday life”, Spahn said after the conference in Lindau on Lake Constance. 3G means access is only granted to people who can show a vaccination certificate (geimpft), proof of Covid recovery (genesen) or a negative Covid test (getestet). 

Furthermore, he said 2G – i.e. access only for the vaccinated and people who’ve recovered from Covid – should be an option for businesses in regions with a very high incidence of infection. He said it was the first time there’s been consensus between the federal government and all the states that there should be such 2G regulations.

Health ministers also decided to extend compulsory testing in old people’s homes – even for people who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid recently.

It comes as Germany is still in political limbo following September’s general election.

The incoming coalition parties, aiming to form a government by early December, have so far ruled out mandatory jabs and said there will be no new lockdowns – at least not for the vaccinated.

READ ALSO: Majority of Germans in favour of compulsory vaccination

But with just 67 percent of the population fully inoculated and intensive care beds filling rapidly, calls are growing for action to tackle the upward curve.

Several of Germany’s states, which have significant powers to decide their own Covid approach, have already agreed or introduced restrictions for the unvaccinated.

These include limiting certain events and spaces to people who are fully vaccinated or can show proof of recovery – a system that excludes the unvaccinated – the 2G rule. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

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