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HEALTH

Germany expects 40,000 vaccine doses for monkeypox in June

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says the first batch of vaccines against monkeypox should arrive in June.

Karl Lauterbach speaks at a press conference about monkeypox in Berlin on May 24th.
Karl Lauterbach speaks at a press conference about monkeypox in Berlin on May 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

In total, Germany expects to receive 240,000 vaccine doses, which have been ordered as a precaution to limit any possible spread of monkeypox. 

Lauterbach told public broadcaster ARD: “40,000 units should come in the first two weeks of June, then 200,000 units after that.”

He said that he had signed the contract for the vaccine doses, and was waiting for the company’s response. “But I expect that we will have this vaccine soon,” Lauterbach added. 

It is not yet clear who will receive the vaccinations in Germany, but a plan is being prepared.

By Friday May 27th, a total of 16 confirmed monkeypox infections had been reported to the RKI in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony-Anhalt. Further cases are expected. 

The Health Minister reiterated that he did not expect a new pandemic to emerge from the monkeypox virus. “I do not believe that monkeypox really poses a threat in the sense of a pandemic,” Lauterbach said during the interview with ARD on Sunday evening. “The potential is not there.”

READ ALSO: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox virus

Nevertheless, he said the spread of monkeypox has to be kept in check “We have to contain it,” he said. “We don’t want it to take hold.”

Due to the similarity of the viruses, vaccines developed to protect against smallpox also protect against monkeypox, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) says. 

Lauterbach said last week that Germany had secured “up to 40,000 doses” of a smallpox vaccine. The vaccine, called Imvanex, is also approved in the United States against monkeypox. 

Germany is recommending that anyone who suspects they have monkeypox should isolate for 21 days. They should also contact their doctor or local health authority. 

What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) that causes small lesions on the skin, headaches and fever. It’s similar to chickenpox or smallpox, though the illness tends to be less severe than smallpox.

The symptoms of the disease caused by the virus are generally mild and clear up in 2-4 weeks without treatment, but can occasionally result in more serious illness if the patient has a weaker immune system.

It can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person or animal. 

Monkeypox is endemic in several countries in West and Central Africa, which means it occurs there permanently.

Recently, however, monkeypox has also been found in more than 20 other countries – including Germany and other EU countries as well as Australia and the USA.

Monkeypox is related to smallpox, which killed millions of people every year for centuries until the disease was eradicated in 1980. However, monkeypox is considerably less dangerous. Most of those who contract monkeypox recover within a few weeks, and fatal illness is rare.

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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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