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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Germany’s Scholz rules out second attempt at vaccine mandate

After an attempt to introduce an over-60s vaccine mandate was rejected in parliament, German chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has said his government will not bring the issue to a vote again.

Germany's Scholz rules out second attempt at vaccine mandate

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has rejected the idea of a second attempt to introduce mandatory Covid vaccinations.

“There is no legislative majority in the Bundestag for compulsory vaccination,” he said on Thursday evening after consultations with the leaders of the federal states in Berlin.

Expressing his regret at the lack of support for the move, he said this reality would have to be the “starting point” for any future vaccination drives. 

“I am, of course, disappointed that there was no majority today, I don’t want to hide that at all,” said Scholz. “I am still convinced that it would be right to have compulsory vaccination in Germany. With the Bundestag decision, however, a very clear statement by the legislator had now been made.”

Despite the fact that Covid-19 vaccines have been available in Germany for more than a year, around 24 percent of the population still have no vaccine protection whatsoever.

Of these, around 4-5 percent are too young to get the Covid vaccine, but around 20 percent are either against the idea or still on the fence. 

“We will do everything we can to convince even more citizens of this country to get vaccinated,” Scholz told reporters. “This will require our creativity.”

READ ALSO: Scholz gets stinging defeat in parliament with Covid jab vote

On Thursday, a bill for compulsory vaccination for everyone over the age of 60 was voted down in the Bundestag, dealing a painful blow to its supporters in the traffic-light coalition. 

The bill had been promoted primarily by SPD and Green MPs, including Scholz himself and Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). A motion from the opposition CDU/CSU parties to introduce a vaccine register and potential target vaccine mandates was also rejected by the house. 

‘Bitter defeat’

Scholz is not alone in ruling out the possibility of reviving the vaccine mandate issue. 

Speaking to Tagesschau in Berlin, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the failure of the bill had been a “bitter defeat” that made it unlikely that any future bill on the subject would gain enough support to succeed.

“It’s a clear result that has to be lived with,” he said. “I’m sceptical about whether we can still achieve anything through additional talks.”

In a democracy, he said, this had to be respected.

But he explained that the failure of compulsory vaccination is bad news for vulnerable patients, for those who work to treat and care for Covid patients, and for all those who have to live with restrictions. A new wave of infections is likely by autumn at the latest, Lauterbach said.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign