Why has Germany given out 42 million extra vaccination certificates?

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has issued 42.6 million more digital vaccination certificates than vaccine doses - but the government claims there's a simple explanation.

A sign in a pharmacy window advertises digital vaccine passes
A sign in a pharmacy window advertises digital vaccine passes. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

According to information obtained by Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ), 204.7 million vaccination certificates had been issued by pharmacies and doctors in the run up to Friday. 

This is around 25 percent more than the some 162.1 million vaccinations reported on the Robert Koch Institutes (RKI) website as of Monday.

The discrepancy between the two figures has let some to question whether German officials may have drastically underestimated the number of vaccine doses given out so far, or whether the difference suggests there have been falsified certificates. 

However, a ministry spokesperson told NOZ that the could be “various reasons” for the 42 million extra certificates that had been issued.

“When they originally came into circulation, many certificates were automatically created by vaccination centres and sent to the vaccinated persons, while the persons concerned had often already been issued a certificate in a pharmacy,” they said. 

They also pointed out that certificates “could be issued more than once, for example if a person loses their copy”.

READ ALSO: Yellow booklets: How proving vaccinations in Germany changes in 2022

Nevertheless, the difference between vaccine doses administered and certificates printed has been growing rapidly in recent weeks.

According to the ministry, 162,397,255 digital vaccination certificates had been issued by December 15th at a time when, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 136,641,993 vaccination doses had been administered.

That means that, in mid-December, the “surplus” of certificates was still just under 26 million, compared to the current figure of more than 42 million.

During this period of time, the government was carrying out an ambitious booster jab campaign with targets of 30 million jabs within a month. This may have seen people pick up automatic proof of vaccination at state-run vaccination centres as well as getting a copy from their pharmacy. 

It also roughly coincides with the government bringing in blanket ‘2G’ rules (vaccinated or recovered only) across the country, which could have motivated people to dig out their old certificates or get new ones printed. 

Vaccinations carried out in doctors’ surgeries are organised by the Federal Association of Doctors (KBV), who told NOZ they could not explain the discrepancy. 

A spokesperson from the KBV said there didn’t seem to be underreporting based on available billing data, adding that in-depth analysis from the RKI would be needed to investigate the matter further.

According to NOZ, the RKI were unwilling to comment. 

READ ALSO: What you should know about Germany’s plans to roll out e-prescriptions

Meanwhile, Left Party health expert Kathrin Vogler called for urgent clarity on the matter.

Not everyone who’s been vaccinated would have got a digital certificate, she argued, which could point to a larger number of superfluous passes than the 42 million mentioned. 

“In that case, something would have gone wrong with more than every fourth vaccination,” she told NOZ.

Member comments

  1. My husband and I visited our son in Frankfurt before Christmas after traveling from the US. We went to the pharmacy and got our certificates registered. Where does that fit into the numbers?

  2. Exactly. I’d bet that Americans and NATO partners living here who get immunized on base (along with tourists from outside Europe) and then get QR codes from the pharmacies account for a large number.

  3. My wife and I got our booster vaccination in the UK over the Christmas period, since according to the German rules at the time we would have had to be in quarantine at the time our pre-booked boosters were due to be given to us at our German GP. We successfully had the certificates registered at our local chemist in Germany on our return and uploaded to our digital certificates on our phones. Thus may provide an explanation.

  4. Indeed. Many expats (and quite a few Germans) who couldn’t get a vaccine administered here went abroad, for their immunizations. I would venture to say MOST expats who could, did! It was such a bloody mess at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, and frankly the local Hausarzts couldn’t get priority appointments for expats who were in the high-risk categories.

  5. As a member of the local US NATO community I can assure you that getting our shots on base we were told to then go to a apothecary and get our EU digital pass. Many of us live in Netherlands and Belgium but we’re told to go to the German locations. They were setup for it. That’s what we did 4 x for 2 people on 2 rounds of shots. And now have to go back for our booster proof QR. These numbers still seem really high to me.

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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