The change comes on the back of changes to the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ under German law.
Guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute and Ministry of Health now states that people who’ve had a shot of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) now require a second shot of either J&J an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech in order to be considered fully vaccinated.
Previously, J&J had been the only Covid vaccine to require just one dose – rather than two – for full vaccination protection.
Speaking to The Local on Tuesday, a spokesperson for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn confirmed that people who’ve had just one shot of J&J would need a negative test in order to travel on their trains in future.
“Unless passengers have been vaccinated or have recovered, they must carry proof of a negative Covid test,” the spokesperson said.
The definition of ‘vaccinated’ is based on guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which currently states that two shots are needed for full inoculation with J&J, the spokesperson confirmed.
“We are still in constant contact with the federal and state ministries and authorities regarding Covid,” they said. “The authorities are constantly adapting the pandemic response to the current situation – also in the area of mobility. We follow and implement these regulations.”
Since November 24th, the so-called ‘3G’ rule has applied on public transport, meaning customers should carry proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test in order to travel.
If customers don’t have at least one of these documents with them, they are generally asked to leave the train at the next station and can also be hit with fines.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has faced harsh criticism for the sudden rule-change, which was described by German newspaper Welt as a “scandal”.
“By shifting the information online, hundreds of thousands of people were downgraded overnight to unvaccinated without their knowledge and de facto excluded from public life until they received their (second) vaccination,” wrote Welt commentator Benjamin Stibi.
Question marks remain about how quickly the new rules will be implemented by the states in other areas of public life where access is restricted to people who are fully vaccinated or recovered.
This includes the majority of indoor public spaces, such as non-essential shops, cinemas and gyms.
Meanwhile, in hospitality businesses like bars, cafes and restaurants, fully vaccinated people require a negative test or a booster jab for entry.
This means that those who have had a second jab after Johnson & Johnson – a dose that was previously considered a booster – could now require a negative test to eat out or meet friends for drinks.
The rule change is also likely to have an impact on people who work on-site, as a ‘3G’ rule (vaccination, recovery or test) applies in the workplace.
It could also impact people travelling into Germany with one dose of J&J who may no longer be seen as fully vaccinated. The Local has contacted the Health Ministry for clarification on this point and we’ll updated you when we receive an answer.
According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany since the start of the pandemic.
The country is expecting a delivery of a further 18 million doses this year.