German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

With Germany in the midst of another wave of Covid cases, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has said that Germans under the age of 60 should get a fourth vaccination against the virus.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach in Belrin in early July. Photo: dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Lauterbach said that he would recommend that young people who want to avoid getting sick in the summer should “get vaccinated of course based on a consultation with their doctor.” 

Receiving a fourth vaccination would permit “a completely different level of safety,” he told Spiegel magazine, explaining that another booster would reduce the risk of infection in the coming months as well as limiting the risk of suffering from long Covid.

Germany’s vaccine commission, the Stiko, currently only recommends a fourth vaccination for people over the age of 70, as well as vulnerable groups such as people living in care homes and their carers.

Most German GPs are believed to rely on the Stiko recommendation for the advice they give to patients.

Lauterbach said though that the Stiko recommendation was “only a general one”, adding that people over the age of 60 should “under no circumstances” wait until a new vaccination that protects specifically against the Omicron variant becomes available.

‘Gambling trust’

Lauterbach’s proposal came in on Friday for immediate criticism from several leading virologists, as well as the head of the Stiko.

Stiko boss Thomas Mertens told Welt newspaper that he didn’t know what evidence Lauterbach was relying upon to contradict the recommendation of his own body.

Mertens said that young people were well protected by the currently recommended three injections, adding that “we can’t vaccinate the whole population every year.”

Virologist Alexander Kekulé said that “when the Minister of Health makes his own recommendations that deviate from those of the Stiko, he is gambling away the trust of the population.”

“That there would no longer be a risk of contracting Covid after the fourth vaccination is grossly incorrect,” he added.

Cases ‘plateauing’

In its weekly report on the Covid situation in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute stated on Thursday that the level of infection had “hit a plateau,” with case numbers similar to what they were a week ago.

However further increases in serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths are to be expected, the report continued.

Most recently, the RKI recorded an increase in outbreaks in nursing homes and homes for the elderly. Outbreaks with at least one new case were reported from 235 of these facilities last week, up from 192 the previous week.

The number of patients requiring treatment in an intensive care unit with a Covid-19 diagnosis also increased. According to the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, the number of intensive care patients stood at 1,243 on Thursday – up from 1,047 in the previous week.

Severe courses of the disease continue to particularly affect older people aged 80 and older, according to RKI data.

For every 100,000 residents, about 25 in the over 80 age group were hospitalized with a severe respiratory infection and Covid-19 last week. Across all age groups, that figure was 3.7 – the equivalent of about 3,100 new hospital admissions a week, he said.

For the past calendar week, the agency calculated between 800,000 and 1.3 million Sars-CoV-2 infected people with symptoms of acute respiratory illness.

The RKI still advises people to avoid social contact if they display symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as a cold, sore throat or cough, regardless of vaccination status and rapid test results.

READ ALSO: Masks and tests – the Covid rules that tourists in Germany should know

Member comments

  1. “Stiko boss Thomas Mertens told Welt newspaper that he didn’t know what evidence Lauterbach was relying upon to contradict the recommendation of his own body.”

    The evidence was probably from his pfizer check. I have no proof but members of the government have been known to garnish their wages in very questionable ways. So I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I wish there was some website or something you could go to, where you can see any conflicts of interest that members of the government might possibly have. If there is one could anyone share? I’ve not found one to date.

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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?