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What people who’ve had the J&J jab need to know for travel to Germany

People who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not seen as fully vaccinated for entry to Germany under new regulations. We break down what you should be aware of.

People walk in Hamburg Airport earlier in January.
People walk in Hamburg Airport earlier in January. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

What’s happened?

Previously, people who received a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as Janssen, were classed as fully vaccinated in Germany. 

But an amendment to the rules, which came into force earlier this month, means that people who have a single dose of J&J do not count as fully vaccinated. They have to have a second jab to be classed as fully vaccinated under the travel restrictions.

This is important when travelling to Germany because in some cases people who are not fully vaccinated are not allowed to enter the country, and if they are, they face tougher restrictions depending on the risk classification of the region they are travelling from. 

The change potentially affects millions of people who’ve had the J&J jab in Germany – as well as many people abroad. 

It comes after guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) published on January 15th said that people now need two doses of J&J to be fully vaccinated. 

The Local Germany contacted the Health Ministry for clarification to see how this applies to people crossing the German border.

A Health Ministry spokesman confirmed to us that there had been amendments to Germany’s so-called Corona Entry Regulation.

He said that for someone who has had one dose of the J&J vaccine,  “two vaccination doses are required for a complete vaccination”.

“Complete vaccination protection for an initial vaccination with the Covid-19 Vaccine Janssen is also present if the second vaccination was carried out with an mRNA vaccine (Spikevax/Moderna or Corminaty/BioNTech),” he added.

Spelling it out once more, the spokesman said: “Therefore, two vaccine doses are currently required for proof of complete vaccination protection according to the Corona Entry Ordinance.”

READ ALSO: Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

What does this mean?

People are not classed as fully vaccinated may be refused entry to Germany. Under the current travel restrictions, people have to be fully vaccinated to enter Germany from most non-EU countries.

Unvaccinated people over the age of six who are allowed to travel to Germany but are coming from a high risk country have to show proof of a negative Covid test before entering the country.

A doctor's assistant preparing the J&J vaccine in Berlin.

A doctor’s assistant preparing the J&J vaccine in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Fully vaccinated or recovered people can show proof of their vaccination/recovery instead of a test. 

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people also have to quarantine for 10 days, with the option to shorten it with a negative test result taken at the earliest five days into quarantine.

If a country is classed as a ‘virus variant area of concern’ then everyone – whether they are vaccinated or not – has to show proof of a test and quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Germany. An entry ban on non-residents is also put in place if a country goes on the red list.

Why is there confusion?

People who were offered J&J last year were told that a single dose meant full vaccination status. 

Later in the year, the German government issued a recommendation for J&J recipients to get a second jab with an mRNA vaccine. However, this was not a requirement to achieve full vaccination status. 

Most people who had J&J thought they were getting their booster vaccination early. 

Now that’s changed, many people could be caught out if they are travelling. 

To make things more complicated the new regulations do not necessarily apply across the board. 

For instance, Deutsche Bahn told The Local that people who’ve only had one J&J jab would need to get a test when travelling on public transport under the 3G rules because they were following the Paul Ehrlich Institute guidance.

But Berlin’s public transport BVG told us they would not be updating their restrictions, meaning people can travel on BVG services with one dose of J&J and not need a negative Covid test. 

READ ALSO: Millions of Germans no longer considered fully vaccinated on public transport

What about boosters?

To add to the confusion, most people who had J&J believed they were getting their booster jab when the recommendation for a second vaccine surfaced. 

Now the government says that people who’ve had J&J plus a second shot need a further jab three months later – and that is their booster. 

But some states say that people who’ve had the J&J plus another jab are already boosted. 

A sign for the 2G-plus rules at a restaurant in Dresden.

A sign for the 2G-plus rules at a restaurant in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Knowing if you are boosted or not is key for going to public places, like restaurants and cafes, in Germany. The 2G-plus rules mean that vaccinated/recovered people need to be boosted or have a negative Covid test. 

READ ALSO: How Germany’s 2G-plus Covid rules have left millions of people confused

What counts as a fully vaccinated person when it comes to entry into Germany?

According to the Corona Entry Regulation, a vaccinated person is an “asymptomatic person who is in possession of a vaccination certificate issued in his or her name”.

The Health Ministry spokesman told us that vaccinations must comply with the “specifications published by the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI)”.

The guidance is based on the vaccines used, the number of doses and interval times.

People are counted as being fully vaccinated in Germany two weeks after their second dose.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

Germany's highest court ruled on Thursday that the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rule for employees in health and care sectors is constitutional.

Germany's top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

From mid-March this year, health and care workers in Germany have had to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered. 

If they can’t provide this proof they face fines or even bans from working – however it is unclear how widely it has been enforced due to concerns over staff shortages. 

On Thursday the constitutional court rejected complaints against the partial vaccination mandate, saying the protection of vulnerable people outweighs any infringement of employees’ rights.

The law covers employees in hospitals as well as care homes, clinics, emergency services, doctors’ surgeries and facilities for people with disabilities. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid vaccine mandate for health staff

The court acknowledged that the law meant employees who don’t want to be vaccinated would have to deal with professional consequences or change their job – or even profession. 

However, the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid as a health or care worker is constitutionally justified and proportionate, according to the judges.

They said that’s because compulsory vaccination in this case is about protecting elderly and sick people. These groups are at increased risk of becoming infected by Covid-19 and are more likely to become seriously ill or die.

The protection of vulnerable groups is of “paramount importance”, the resolution states.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach welcomed Thursday’s ruling and thanked health care facilities who have already implemented the vaccine mandate. He said: “The state is obliged to protect vulnerable groups”.

Course of the pandemic doesn’t change things

According to the ruling, the development of the pandemic in Germany is no reason to change course. 

The court based its decision on the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and medical societies, stating that it could still be assumed that a vaccination would protect against the Omicron variant.

It’s true that the protection of vaccines decreases over time, and most courses of disease are milder with the Omicron variant. Nevertheless, the institution-based vaccination obligation remains constitutional because, according to the experts, the higher risk for old and sick people has not fundamentally changed.

A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote held in April

MPs had been allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue rather than having to vote along party lines. 

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