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COVID-19 VACCINES

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

The German Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has recommend that all children aged 5-11 receive a Covid-19 vaccination.

A young person receives a Covid vaccination in Germany.
A young person receives a Covid vaccination in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

Children in this age group should be given a one-time jab with an mRNA vaccine, preferably with BioNTech/Pfizer, STIKO said on Tuesday. 

Up until this point, STIKO had only recommend that children aged five to 11 with pre-existing conditions, and those who have contact with at-risk individuals, be given Covid shots – although healthy children were able to get jabbed if their parents organised it with a doctor.

Experts said the majority of children have likely had a Covid infection. They estimated that 77.5 percent of 5-11 year olds have had at least one contact with the virus. 

For this reason, children aged 5-11 are only recommended to receive one Covid 19 vaccine dose for the time being, the standing committee said. 

In order to make the vaccine suitable for young children, Pfizer/BioNTech has developed a lower-dosed version of its Covid vaccine.

STIKO also said children aged six and older could get a Moderna jab.

The vaccination should be administered at least three months after a known infection, the recommendation states.

The recommendation has been made as a precautionary measure because a renewed increase in Covid infections is expected in autumn and winter, STIKO said.

“The initial one-time vaccination aims to build up as good a basic immunity as possible now,” experts said.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

In Germany, just under 20 percent of 5-11 year olds are vaccinated.

STIKO said that children who have already received two jabs shouldn’t receive another shot at the moment. 

But for children with underlying illnesses or who have contact with at-risk groups, STIKO confirmed the recommendation of basic immunisation with two doses as well as a booster jab on top of those. 

A general vaccination recommendation in Germany has been in place for children over the age of 12 for some time, while no Covid vaccine has yet been approved for children under five. 

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HEALTH

German health insurance costs set to rise next year

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wants to raise additional contributions for statutory health insurance organisations in 2023.

German health insurance costs set to rise next year

The move means that the millions of people who have statutory health insurance (GKV) in Germany will likely face a significant rise in additional contributions next year. 

Health Minister Lauterbach (SPD) said on Tuesday the additional contributions would rise by 0.3 percentage points to 1.6 per cent.

If the increase goes ahead as planned, it could mean top earners with statutory health insurance would have to pay up to €87 extra per year, and average earners (bringing in around €4,000 gross per month) around €72 more, according to a calculation by German daily Bild

At the moment the cost of statutory public health insurance in Germany amounts to 14.6 percent of gross income. For employees, the employer pays half of the contribution rate.

READ ALSO: How can I change my health insurance provider in Germany?

The health insurance funds can levy additional contributions. The average additional contribution rate is is calculated annually by the Health Ministry and based on the projected expenses of health insurers. 

The average is 1.3 percent for 2022, but varies from fund to fund. If the additional contribution now rises to an average of 1.6 per cent, the health insurance overall contribution rate will exceed 16 percent of people’s wages for the first time.

Why are the additional contributions rising?

Lauterbach said statutory health insurance organisations are facing a deficit of about €17 billion next year. 

The Health Minister said in a tweet: “Unfortunately, the contribution rate has to increase by 0.3. The deficit is too large: €17 billion.”

He added that pharmaceutical industry was “making the biggest solidarity contribution” because their “turnover increased very strongly”.

The government hopes that the increase of the additional contribution will generate additional revenue for the health insurance funds of almost €5 billion.

Health insurance organisations will also receive a further federal subsidy – i.e. tax money – of €2 billion, to a total of €16.5 billion, plus a loan of €1 billion.

Meanwhile, there are also plans for a one-off solidarity levy of €1 billion from pharmaceutical companies, and another €3 billion is planned to be saved through efficiency improvements.

“I have essentially inherited this deficit from my predecessor,” Lauterbach said, referring to former Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). 

Lauterbach’s proposal will now be voted on by the ministries. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) has already agreed to the plans.

Several health insurance organisations recently increased their contribution rates, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Vocabulary

Additional contributions (die) Zusatzbeiträge

Steigen – to increase

Additional revenue – (die) Mehreinnahmen

Statutory public health insurance – (die) Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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