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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: When should I get my booster in Germany if I’ve just had Covid?

Widespread medical advice, including in Germany, recommends that you still get boosted after recovering from Covid — but after a delay.

A syringe and a vial of Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/Biontech seen up close
Does a Covid-19 infection mean you should delay your booster shot - and if so by how much? Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance

Although so-called “breakthrough” COVID-19 infections, where a fully vaccinated person still catches the virus, are much rarer than infections in unvaccinated people, they still occur.

Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, the German company which developed the Pfizer vaccine, has warned that even three shots of its vaccine are not enough to completely prevent symptomatic infections with the new Omicron variant.

But that doesn’t mean a booster won’t help, and German health authorities recommend that people who have recovered from Covid still get a third shot.

READ MORE: Working in Germany: The 10 rules you need to know if you fall ill

Two doses already reduce hospitalisation from Omicron cases by around 70 percent, with boosters only adding to that protection.

Germany’s Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) now advises that fully vaccinated people who recover from COVID-19 wait three months before getting a booster shot.

Individual doctors may, however, decide to administer a booster as early as four weeks after COVID-19 symptoms resolve.

This discretion is designed to allow doctors to take into account the unique circumstances of individual patients, such as those who are immunocompromised.

EXPLAINED: What are the current Covid rules in Germany around quarantine?

The three-month recommendation is considerably longer than some other jurisdictions, with the UK advising those who have recovered from COVID-19 to wait 28 days before getting a booster dose.

In the meantime, BioNTech has confirmed it is working on an Omicron-specific vaccine dose that should be ready in March, with German health experts advising that a fourth dose may soon become necessary.

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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