2G-plus: What people who've had the J&J jab in Germany need to know
German states are rolling out tougher '2G-plus' restrictions. But people who've had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not be aware that they need a booster jab on top of their second vaccine - or they have to take a test to visit a restaurant.
With German states tightening the entry requirements to get into restaurants, bars and cafes (and in some states, leisure and cultural facilities), people need to be aware of their vaccination status.
The 2G-plus rule means that vaccinated and recovered people need a Covid test, or to have had a booster shot. Unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter.
So if I've had a booster shot I don't need to take a test?
Exactly. Now booster shots are really showing their benefit when it comes to restrictions in Germany, as well as for your health (because it ups the protection against Covid-19).
Most people in Germany have had three doses of a vaccine when they get their booster. That is two mRNA doses (Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna) for basic immunisation and a booster (usually mRNA), or with three doses of a combination of a vector vaccine like AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines.
But around 3.5 million people in Germany have had the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine, also known as Janssen.
Previously, people were classed as being fully vaccinated when they got the single dose J&J vaccine.
Later last year, however, Germany's vaccine advisory board STIKO advised that people who got J&J should get an mRNA shot anytime four weeks after their first vaccine.
This was thought to be an earlier booster shot because there was no mention at the time of another jab on top of this.
But The Local has found in recently published German government advice (dated December 21st 2021) on booster vaccines that people vaccinated with J&J are recommended to get a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine "after a further three months" after their second dose.
The government says that the second vaccine dose from four weeks after the first vaccine dose is "to optimise the first vaccination", so it is not classed as a booster, but rather the completion of a full course of vaccination.
What does this mean then?
People who've had J&J and another top-up shot may have thought they were boosted and wouldn't have to take a test to visit a restaurant under 2G-plus rules.
But it looks like this group of people will have to take a Covid test to visit a bar or restaurant until they get their third shot (although there may be state differences - see more below).
We contacted the German Health Ministry to ask for clarification on this.
A spokesman told us that from a medical point of view, the recommended vaccination with an mRNA vaccine four weeks after the J&J shot "is to be considered as completion of the basic immunisation".
Experts said more protection was needed.
"The frequency distribution of vaccination breakthroughs observed in Germany according to the interval between vaccination and disease indicates a deficient primary vaccination protection by a single Janssen vaccination," said the Health Ministry spokesman.
"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 spokesman added that following changes in December 2021, a vaccination with J&J two months after initial dose is possible as a booster shot, and can also be used as a top-up shot after two doses of an mRNA vaccine.
Are there any differences between states?
Yes, anecdotally we've heard that in some states having J&J plus another mRNA vaccine does count as being boosted. So there is a lot of confusion over this.
According to broadcaster ZDF this is the case in the states of Hamburg, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia. Check with your local authority.