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COVID-19 VACCINES

German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign

Following the failure of the vaccine mandate, medical experts in Germany fear an escalation of the pandemic in the autumn.

German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign
Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, comments on the changes to the isolation and quarantine rules during a press conference at the Federal Ministry of Health. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

After his proposed vaccination mandate faced a crushing defeat in the German parliament on Thursday, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is now calling for a strengthened vaccination campaign to target those who have not yet had the jab – including migrants and other underrepresented groups.

READ ALSO: German parliament rejects over-60s vaccine mandate

As of Friday morning, 76.0 percent of the total population of Germany had been vaccinated and 58.9 percent had been given a third “booster” jab. 

“Once again, we need to target a really effective vaccination campaign at those who have not yet been vaccinated but are willing in principle,” Lauterbach said. He added that one such group was Germany’s immigrant population, which remains underrepresented in vaccination coverage. 

“They have to be reached; we can’t give up,” Lauterbach said. “We also have to advertise more creatively. We’re preparing something there right now.”

The SPD politician told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday that he expects the pandemic to worsen in the autumn and is calling for an amendment to the Infection Protection Act by then.

Following the failure of the vaccine mandate, other medical experts have also raised their concerns about a worsening of the pandemic again in the autumn – even to the point of new lockdowns.

READ ALSO: Scholz gets stinging defeat in parliament with Covid jab vote

“The fact is that we have to expect rising infection figures again in the autumn,” Gerald Gaß, CEO of the German Hospital Association (DKG), told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. “Politicians must prepare for this today in order to avoid overloading the healthcare system.”

Karl Lauterbach also said he no longer sees the possibility for further relaxations of Covid measures.

Currently, the vast majority of Covid measures have been dispensed with in Germany, though people are still expected to wear masks on public transport and in hospitals and care homes. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: The Covid rules you still need to know in Germany

“We have now made the relaxations that can be made, but there we have reached the end of the line,” he said. “If we had gotten the vaccination requirement right, the scope for relaxations in the autumn would have been much greater. Now the way I see it is that in the autumn, the Infection Protection Act will probably have to be adjusted again at an early stage.”

The Federal Health Minister plans to discuss the current infection situation and developments in the Covid pandemic in a joint press conference with RKI chief Lothar Wieler on Friday.

Member comments

  1. Karl Lauterbach also said he no longer sees the possibility for further relaxations of Covid measures.<- is somebody throwing his Toys out the pram?

    The Federal Health Minister plans to discuss the current infection situation and developments in the Covid pandemic in a joint press conference with RKI chief Lothar Wieler <- sounds like the numbers are about to drastically go up.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

Vaccines for children aged six months to five-years-old are currently being rolled out in the United States. But can very young children also get a Covid jab in Germany?

Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

At the moment, only children aged five and above can get vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of a reduced dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine for children between the ages of five and 12, and this age group are able to get vaccinated by doctors at practices or at dedicated vaccine centres.

Back in May, Germany’s Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) issued a general Covid jab recommendation for 5-12 year olds. Previously, they had only recommended the shots to children with pre-existing conditions or vulnerable contacts.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for all children over five

Of course, some parents are keen to get their younger children vaccinated as well – and news from the US, where both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech has recently been approved for children under five, has given them hope that the same will happen in Germany.

So what exactly is going on?

Well, at the moment, there does seem to be some movement in that direction, but things are still up in the air. 

Back in April, Moderna announced that it had submitted a request to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a variation to the conditional marketing authorisation.

In plain English, this means they want permission to roll out a 25mg dose of their vaccine (as part of a two-dose series) for children aged six months to five years. This is the same dosage that is being used to vaccinate toddlers and babies in the US. 

In response to a question from The Local, Pfizer/BioNTech said it was also planning to file for authorisation for the under-fives vaccine from the EMA in early July. 

Depending on the EMA’s decision, this could pave the way for very young children to get the Covid jab in Germany.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the authorities will be recommending that all parents rush out and vaccinate their young’uns. 

Speaking to the Funke Media Group back in March, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) struck a cautious tone when talking about vaccines for under fives.

“In the studies, the vaccines have not shown the immunisation effect in young children that we had hoped for. But it is precisely in this age group that the effect must be particularly clearly proven,” he said.

“It is therefore unclear at the moment whether there will be a vaccination recommendation for under-fives in Germany.”

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

For its part, the EMA said it was in talks with Pfizer ahead of the submission of its application for approval.

“To date, no application for an extension of indication for the use of Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) in children under five has been submitted to EMA,” a spokesperson for the EMA told The Local.

“However, EMA is in contact with the company about the possible submission of data and we will communicate on our website should we receive a request for an extension of indication.”

At the time of writing, the German Health Ministry and Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had not responded to a request for comment. 

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