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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany’s vaccine panel advises against Moderna jab for under-30s

Germany's vaccine advisory panel says people under the age of 30 should only be vaccinated against Covid-19 with BioNTech/Pfizer.

A young person receives a Covid jab in Stuttgart.
A young person receives a Covid jab in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) advised against the use of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for people under 30 due to evidence of a small risk of cardiac inflammation. 

The vaccine commission cited studies showing that mRNA jabs led in rare cases to the conditions myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart) in younger patients, with slightly higher prevalence in those who received Moderna.

STIKO said that people over the age of 30, however, have no increased risk of heart issues after being vaccinated with Moderna.

As a result, STIKO updated its draft coronavirus vaccine guidance and “recommends that people under 30 only be vaccinated with Comirnaty,” the BioNTech-Pfizer jab, one day after France issued similar guidance.

STIKO said it also recommends that pregnant women – regardless of their age – only receive the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine as well.

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In their statement, the vaccine advisory board said that the recommendations apply to first and second jabs, as well as booster shots.

The vaccine board bases its recommendations on the findings of Germany’s Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines, which compiles data on side effects and complications.

The US has also delayed approval of the Moderna jab for young people, though last week they recommended use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages five to 11 after reviewing the risks of myocarditis.

Paediatric cardiologist Matthew Oster, commenting on the Pfizer recommendation at the time, said he was “much more worried” about the risks of Covid to young people than risks posed by the vaccine.

STIKO has previously said that the benefits of vaccinations for 12-17-year-olds “outweigh the risk of very rare vaccine side effects”.

The vaccine panel will send their draft decision to experts and German states for approval. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Germany's federal vaccine agency says that people who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should no longer be classed as being fully vaccinated.

People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

People who’ve had J&J, sometimes known as Janssen, used to have full vaccination status after a single dose of the vaccine. 

Since January 15th, however, a single dose of J&J should no longer count as full vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s vaccine authority. 

In autumn last year the German government began recommending a second mRNA jab for people who’d had J&J – which many people thought was the booster vaccination. 

However, according to the PEI’s update on proof of vaccination within the Covid Protective Measures Exemption Ordinance and the Coronavirus Entry Ordinance, the second shot is needed to complete ‘basic immunisation’.

It is unclear at this stage if it means that people returning or coming to Germany from abroad with only one shot of J&J will be counted as partially vaccinated and therefore need to present tests or face other forms of barriers to entry. 

We are also looking into what this means for the various health pass rules in states, such as the 3G rules for transport. 

The Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German-language medical magazine, said: “Special rules according to which one dose was recognised as a complete vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are no longer applicable.”

The Local has contacted the German Health Ministry for clarification on what this means for those affected. 

According to the latest government figures, 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany so far in the vaccination campaign. 

The news will come as a shock to those who don’t know that they need another jab, or haven’t got round to getting their second vaccine yet. 

All other jabs – such as BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – already require two jabs. 

People in Germany are seen as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. 

What about boosters?

As The Local Germany has been reporting, the German government said in December that people who’ve had J&J need a third shot three months after their second dose to be considered boosted.

A German Health Ministry spokesman told us last week that due to more vaccination breakthrough infections affecting people who’ve had the J&J vaccine, extra protection was needed.

“Therefore, after completion of the basic immunisation as recommended by STIKO, i.e. after administration of two vaccine doses (preferably 1x J&J + 1x mRNA), following the current recommendation of the STIKO, a further booster vaccination can subsequently be administered with a minimum interval of a further three months, as with the other approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Health Ministry spokesman said. 

However, there has been much confusion on this front because some states have been accepting J&J and another shot as being boosted, while others haven’t.

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It is unclear if the new regulation will mean that states will all have to only accept J&J and two shots as being boosted. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, for instance, updated its regulations on January 16th and now requires that people who’ve had J&J and one shot have another jab to be boosted. 

Having a booster shot in Germany means that you do not have to take a Covid-19 test if you’re entering a venue, such as a restaurant or cafe, under the 2G-plus rules.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that proof of complete vaccination protection against Covid takes into account “the current state of medical science”. 

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