German vaccination campaign falters as Novavax fails to convince sceptics

Despite high hopes that the new Novavax vaccine would be more appealing to vaccination sceptics, Germany is still carrying out just a few thousand initial jabs per day.

Vaccination centre
A single woman waits in an otherwise empty vaccination centre in Potsdam, Brandenburg, on March 18th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

A new Covid vaccine designed to convince the unvaccinated appears to have fallen at the first hurdle as doctors in Germany report a disappointing take up for the product.

When the first 1.4 million doses of Novavax were delivered to Germany in February, it was hoped that the more “classical” method of developing the vaccine would ease the concern of people who were suspicious of the mRNA and vector vaccines currently on the market. 

READ ALSO: First batches of Novavax vaccine to arrive in Germany

But less than four weeks later, the latest statistics reveal that just 40,000 people throughout the country have opted to get inoculated with the new vaccine.

In the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, where more than 26 percent of the population are still unvaccinated, just 4,000 people have received a dose of Novavax so far, leaving around 196,000 doses so far unused. 

According to a recent report by Tagesschau, one vaccination clinic in Stuttgart is only administering around 50 doses of the new vaccine per day. 

In Saxony, around 2,400 people have had their first shot of vaccine with Novavax and just under 700 have had two doses. Saxony has the largest proportion of unvaccinated people in the country, with around 35 percent of the state’s population still unvaccinated. 

Novavax is a so-called protein vaccine which contains coronavirus-like particles which stimulate the immune system to produce defence antibodies and T-cells against Covid-19, and is therefore considered a more traditional type of vaccine, similar to the flu jab.

It is also said to have fewer short-term side effects than other types of Covid vaccines.

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

An estimated four million doses of the vaccine were delivered in the first quarter of the year, with around 30 million more doses due to be delivered between April and June. 

With polls suggesting that unvaccinated people had a widespread distrust in new vaccine technologies such as mRNA, there were hopes that this ‘inactive’ vaccine would be enough to turn the tide. 

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has claimed that similar types of disinformation around Novavax are circulating on the internet in vaccine-sceptic circles.

This could be dissuading many from opting to get the jab.

Vaccination campaign falters

The poor take-up for Novavax comes as the Covid vaccination campaign stalls across the country.

The number of doses of vaccine issued daily has declined rapidly since mid-January 2022, when the government’s booster campaign reached its peak.

On Sunday, just 9,000 vaccine doses were administered in the whole of Germany, 5,000 of which were booster jabs. Of the remaining 4,000, half were first doses and half were second doses.

With the increasingly low take-up, the government could decide to close many of the remaining state vaccination centres.

However, the head of the Covid-19 Crisis Team, Major General Carsten Breuer, has spoken out against this course of action. 

Speaking to DPA on Monday, Breuer said that the basic prerequisite for further necessary vaccinations is that the infrastructure is in place, “from the logistics to the needle in the upper arm”.

“We must now consider whether we can really close vaccination centres and if so, how quickly we can then start them up again,” he added.

He said it must be clarified to what extent doctors in private practice could then take over vaccinations and what would be covered by the public health service.

“The goal must be that if necessary, and I am thinking of worst-case scenarios, we can vaccinate the entire population, i.e. all those willing to be vaccinated in Germany, within the shortest possible time,” said Breuer.

The news comes ahead of a key parliamentary vote on whether to introduce a general vaccine mandate, which is set to take place in April.

However, with two different visions for the mandate and one bill rejecting it competing in the Bundestag, there are concerns that no one group will be able to secure a majority. 

As of Monday, 75.8 percent of the German population was fully vaccinated against Covid, while 58.2 percent had also received a booster jab. 

READ ALSO: German parliament to vote on general vaccine mandate in April

Member comments

  1. “We must now consider whether we can really close vaccination centres and if so, how quickly we can then start them up again,
    “The goal must be that if necessary, and I am thinking of worst-case scenarios, we can vaccinate the entire population” why is that needed? what are they planning?

    Did none of the big wigs stop to think that maybe the people who haven’t been vaccinated have weighed up the options in their own mmind. they possibly have made a personal risk assessment?

    Or, do they think the unvaccinated so thick that they believe everything a spotty kid on youtube says?

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What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?