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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany to offer fourth Covid-19 jab to risk groups

The German Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has provisionally recommended a fourth coronavirus vaccine for at-risk groups, following in the footsteps of Israel and several European countries.

People queue for a vaccination in Cottbus, Brandenburg, in January.
People queue for a vaccination in Cottbus, Brandenburg, in January. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Frank Hammerschmidt

In its preliminary decision released Thursday, STIKO recommend that high-risk groups receive a fourth vaccination dose – or a second booster shot – with an mRNA vaccine.

“Current data show that protection against the currently circulating Omicron variant decreases within a few months of the first booster vaccination,” said STIKO in its preliminary decision. 

“This is particularly significant for people aged 70 years and older, and for people with immunodeficiency, as they have the highest risk of a severe Covid-19 course after infection.

“The second booster vaccination should improve protection and prevent severe illness in people at risk. Staff in medical facilities and care institutions should be better protected, as they can become infected more easily.

“Another goal is to maintain medical and nursing care by reducing isolation and quarantine measures.”

READ ALSO: German pharmacies to offer Covid vaccinations ‘from February 8th’

The recommendation for a fourth jab is for the over 70s, care home residents, people with a weaker immune system over the age five, as well as those working in medical and care facilities with direct patient or resident contact.

“The second booster vaccination should be carried out with an mRNA vaccine at the earliest three months after the first booster vaccination in groups of persons at risk,” said STIKO.

“Staff in medical and nursing facilities should receive the second booster vaccination after six months at the earliest.”

Data from Israel suggests that a fourth vaccination dose “brings about a certain improvement in protection against infection and a clearer improvement in protection against severe disease,” STIKO chairman Thomas Mertens told the Funke Mediengruppe recently.

In Israel, people over 60, immunocompromised people and medical staff have already received the fourth vaccination. In the meantime, all adults there with pre-existing conditions can get a fourth vaccination.

Denmark, Hungary and Spain are also offering fourth jabs to high-risk groups, as are other countries including Chile and Brazil, reported AFP. 

Novavax recommended for over 18s

STIKO also backed the Novavax jab for use in adults in Germany. 

The vaccine, which is protein-based, uses more conventional technology than the newer mRNA vaccines that have proven to be the most effective during the pandemic. 

It is similar to those used against flu, and many hope it will convince vaccine hesitant people in Germany to get protected against Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Can ‘old-fashioned’ Novavax vaccine convince vaccine sceptics?

STIKO recommended that adults can receive two doses of Novavax, given at least three weeks apart. However, it said the booster shots should be one of the mRNA vaccines, BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna.

STIKO said: “In the approval studies, the vaccine showed an efficacy comparable to that of the mRNA vaccines.”

The vaccine is currently not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The draft recommendations released Thursday by STIKO have now been sent to experts and states for their comments and final approval.

Member comments

  1. Ridiculous. Results from the Israel “experiment” showed that a fourth dose did not have beneficial effects. How many times are we going to “boost” with the same vaccine.

    1. if you dont want the “booster” to be the “same” vaccine then the “solution” might be to ask your “doctor” for one of “the” other 4 vaccines.

    2. Israel currently has its highest daily feath toll since the who pandemic began. No one talks about that though

      The vaccines have already been brought. Gotta use them all somehow.

    1. If you’re vaxxed and boosted, chance of dying from COVID is extremely remote if you become infected.

      However, no vaccine is 100 % effective against contracting or spreading COVID, influenza, Ebola or any other infectious disease. If you want those odds, the only “safe” place is in the grave. That’s reality.

      1. I was joking but my thinking is very simple really. I am of the age where other children in my class at school died of polio and diphtheria so I understand the value of being vaccinated, and even if I have been boosted and need boosting again against Covid because a new variant appears then that’s fine by me.

  2. As long as the homeopathic/crystals/essential oils/conspiracy theory crowd stays stupidly stubborn, we will not 2G+++ our way out of this dilemma.

    Germany is too densely-populated to prevent spread without a vaccine mandate. Sorry, anti-vaxxers. You‘ll just have to lift your sleeves and get vaccinated.

    1. You do know that the covid vaccine and booster do not stop the spread? 2G+++ is where its going regardless of mandates or dictats. Its all profit. Has been since the first jab.

      So you want a vaccine mandate? Thats great. Where do you propose the end should be? Once everyone is 2/3/4 times jabbed? There will be some people who will be injured and some will die from the vaccine. ( the case with all medicines). Is it better they die from the vaccine or from covid? Why? Should they sacrifice themselves for the greater good? ¹If covid becomes endemic, then what?
      Should private companies profit from mandates?

      You gathered together a large group of people there. the homeopathic/crystals/essential oils/conspiracy theory crowd. I assume these are your list of deplorable people. How do you suppose we deal with them? That is the Question.

      Be careful what freedoms you want to loose. Its sharp tip of a long wedge. The government should have no place telling people how to live their lives. Liberty means responsibility. Thats why most men dread it.

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COVID-19 TESTS

EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany

Most people now have to pay to get an antigen test in Germany. Here's what you should know about the new rules.

EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany

What’s happening? 

Until this point everyone in Germany was entitled to at least one free Covid-19 rapid test per week by trained staff. It included a test result certificate which could be delivered to the person by email or in paper. 

But the free-for-all offer has now been “suspended”, according to the Federal Ministry of Health.

The revised testing regulation with the new rules took effect on Thursday June 30th. 

READ ALSO: Germany starts charging for Covid tests 

Who will continue to get a free test?

The Health Ministry says the entitlement to so-called Bürgertests is intended to protect particularly vulnerable people.

These include people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons – like women in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Others to receive free access to tests include family carers and people with disabilities, as well as their carers.

Furthermore, household members of people who have Covid, children up to the age of five, and residents and visitors of nursing homes, institutions for people with disabilities and clinics do not have to pay for a rapid test.

A person gets a Covid test swab in Oldenburg.

A person gets a Covid test swab in Oldenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Visitors and people receiving treatment or residents in inpatient or outpatient hospital facilities can also get free tests, as well as people taking part in Covid clinical trials. 

People who need proof that they are negative after a Covid-19 infection, so they can go back to work for example, can still get tested for free.

Employees of nursing homes and hospitals should continue to take Covid rapid tests in their facilities, says the Health Ministry.

How do people prove they are entitled to a free test?

Anyone who wants to claim free testing must identify themselves to the testing agency and provide proof. For example, a birth certificate or passport (for children), and the maternity pass for pregnant women.

Those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons must present an official medical certificate from their doctor. 

For those getting a test due to a household member being positive, they have to show the positive PCR test of their housemate and proof of matching residential address. 

Who has to pay €3 to get a test?

The €3 tests are intended for private use, including for visits to family celebrations, concerts or another “indoor event”, such as the theatre. 

This is aimed at helping prevent so-called superspreader events, where many people get Covid at once.

A €3 test should also be granted to anyone who gets a red Covid warning on their Corona Warn app, or who plans to meet someone – or people – over the age of 60 or people with a pre-existing illness or disability.

Do you need to provide proof for this?

Yes. The Health Ministry says: “This can be done, for example, by showing an admission ticket to an event, the Corona Warning app or, in the case of contact with high-risk patients, a self-disclosure form or a digital registration process.”

The person getting the test signs a document stating why they are getting the test. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Thursday that documenting why tests were taking place would help stop fraud as random checks can be carried out. 

What other documents are required?

As before, an official photo ID has to be presented, such as a passport.

Will this be a bit confusing in practice?

It does appear to be a little unclear on how things will work. Plus many people in Germany, and tourists, won’t know about the change in rules since it came about so quickly. 

There was also some confusion on the point of visits to elderly or people with previous illnesses. People who visit relatives in clinics or nursing homes can still get a test free of charge. However, the regulation also states that those who want to meet with over-60s or those with previous illnesses must pay an additional €3 for a test.

A spokesman from the Health Ministry said the difference is whether the meeting is in an institution (where the test is free) or if it’s a private meeting (where a €3 payment is due).

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status 

Why is the test offer being restricted?

It was getting too expensive. According to Lauterbach, Bürgertests cost €1 billion per month. The government has reportedly spent more than €10.5 billion on free antigen tests during the pandemic, with suspected fraud of up to €1.5 billion.

The government is also reducing the amount that is given to the test centres per antigen test – from the current €11.50 to €9.50.

A total of €6.50 from the federal government will be added to the €3 to reimburse centres.

Will any German states take over the €3 contribution payment for a test?

Lauterbach previously referred to the possibility that federal states could take over the €3 payment for residents, or groups of residents.

The states, however, quickly signalled that there were no plans to do so.

The €3 would not be replaced “in any of the states”, said Baden-Wuerttemberg’s health minister Manne Lucha (Greens) on Tuesday.

What happens if you get Covid symptoms?

People with Covid symptoms should contact their GP. Doctors in Germany can order a PCR test as part of medical treatment if Covid-19, which will be covered by the patient’s health insurance. 

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