Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid boosters after three months

The German Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends that people over 18 in Germany receive their booster jab three months after their last dose.

People queue for a vaccination in Dresden.
People queue for a vaccination outside the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Daniel Schäfer

The move is due to concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid. Experts say a top-up shot offers more protection against severe illness, and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus. 

STIKO previously recommended that people in Germany get a booster shot six months after the last jab (basic immunisation).

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel plans to recommend Covid boosters for all over 18s

But now the interval can be shortened to three months. 

Some German states already moved to change the interval for top-up shots.

The city state of Berlin announced on Monday that it was to allow booster jabs three months (instead of five months) after the second dose.

Last week North Rhine-Westphalia said it would allow booster jabs after just four weeks.

STIKO called for older people and those with a previous illness to be given priority for getting booster shots.

How many people have been vaccinated and boosted?

The vaccination campaign in Germany has been picking up pace in recent weeks.

At least 58.5 million people are now fully vaccinated and 27 million have had boosters, according to the Health Ministry.

More than half of the 60 plus age group – 13.2 million people – have been boosted. Among those aged 18 to 59, the figure is 13.6 million – 30.1 percent of the people in this group.

Just over 70 percent of the total population has been vaccinated twice or received the Johnson & Johnson single dose so far, according to the Health Ministry report.

READ ALSO: Germany to roll out Covid vaccinations for 5-11 year olds

German authorities point out that more people are likely to be vaccinated than official figures show. The Robert Koch Institute believes the actual vaccination rate is up to five percentage points higher than reported.

On average, 1.1 million jabs have been administered per day over the past seven days, according to the figures. On Monday, there were 872,000, the majority of which were booster vaccinations (717,000).

According to the data, the highest number of vaccinations given in one day so far was last Wednesday, with a total of 1.6 million doses.

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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?