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COVID-19 VACCINES

‘Every vaccine helps’: Merkel implores Germans to get jabbed

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged Germans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, speaking days ahead of leaving office in the final episode of more than 600 weekly video podcasts

'Every vaccine helps': Merkel implores Germans to get jabbed
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a press conference with her successor Olaf Scholz on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AFP-Pool | John Macdougall

Thur”I once again emphatically ask you to take this tricky virus seriously,” Merkel said, calling the fourth coronavirus wave to hit Germany “very serious” and even “dramatic”, with intensive care units overloaded in some parts of the country.

“The new Omicron variant in particular seems to be even more infectious than those that came before. Get yourself vaccinated, whether it’s your first shot or a booster,” she added. “Every vaccine helps.”

After 16 years in power, Merkel is expected to pass the reins to Social Democrat Olaf Scholz following a vote in parliament on Wednesday to elect the new chancellor.

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In her podcast, she thanked “those who are reasonable and understanding in this difficult period” and “stick to the rules to protect themselves and take care of others”.

“You are the vast majority in our country. You demonstrate the civic responsibility that’s so marvellous about our country, without which no chancellor or government can achieve anything.”

One of Scholz’s first steps as head of government is expected to be passing a law to make vaccination compulsory from February or March next year. Most of the political spectrum has rallied behind the previously controversial move.

Looking back at her first video podcast in 2006, Merkel recalled that “back then it was very unusual for a head of government to address the public online so directly”.

“My hope at the time, that the World Cup should be a great party even beyond the stadiums, was more than fulfilled,” she added, using the “summer fairy tale” moniker Germans still apply to the football tournament they hosted that year.

While Merkel touched on a vast range of subjects in podcasts over her time in office, from digitalisation to anti-Semitism, in the past two years she has frequently spoken about the pandemic.

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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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