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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab
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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COVID-19 VACCINES

Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says vaccines adapted to target the Covid variant Omicron could arrive in Germany in September.

Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister

During a press conference on Friday, Lauterbach said that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would approve the adapted vaccine for the BA1 subvariant of Omicron as early as September 1st. That means the vaccine could be delivered to Germany in early September.

Later in the month, European authorities will deal with the vaccine for the BA5 subvariant, which could then be delivered to Germany at the end of September. 

This means that the vaccines should be available just in time for the new Infection Protection Act, which is scheduled to come into force in Germany on October 1st.

Lauterbach said the government’s vaccination campaign for the Omicron booster shots is being prepared and will start “promptly”.

“The federal government has procured both vaccines in sufficient quantities,” he said. “We will therefore be supplied relatively early.”

The initial aim will be for risk groups to get the jab, if they haven’t had one recently. Health officials in Germany have been pushing for risk groups, such as older people, to get a fourth vaccination as soon as possible, rather than wait for the adapted vaccines.

READ ALSO: Reader question – Can I get a second booster jab in Germany?

Lauterbach recently told German media that others in Germany – such as those who have “a lot of contacts” should consider getting a second booster shot in some cases. That could apply to people who work in bars, for instance. Lauterbach recommended that these people talk to their family doctor. 

The general rule is that doctors do not have to vaccinate someone against Covid-19 if there is no official recommendation to do so. However, anyone can get the jab – free of charge – if they discuss it and agree with their doctor. 

The Local has asked for extra clarification from the Health Ministry on who should get an adapted vaccine when they arrive. 

Debate over mask rules for autumn

The Health Minister also talked about the planned new Covid protection laws and defended the proposals. They are set to be voted on and will come into force from October 1st.

Under the plans masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to keep measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport in place.

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

States will also have the choice to introduce compulsory masks in venues such as restaurants and bars – but there will be exemptions to wearing a mask for people who have recently been vaccinated (those jabbed in the previous three months), recovered or tested against Covid. 

Lauterbach said he believed that all states would introduce these extra restrictions because numbers would rise in autumn. 

Earlier this week some politicians said the exception to the mask rule did not make sense.

But Lauterbach said it would be safer if there were more freshly-vaccinated, recovered or tested people sitting in a restaurant than simply issuing a general mask requirement – because masks are removed when sitting down. 

The Health Minister also said that he didn’t think this would mean people would try to get vaccinated regularly just so they didn’t have to wear a mask. 

“It is not the case that vaccinations are given every three months,” Lauterbach said. He said the period of time for this exception could also change in future depending on research. 

Lauterbach said there are plans for the digital proof of vaccination or recovery on the Corona Warn app to be colour-coded to make it easier for venue bosses to check proof quickly. 

The Health Minister also said public facilities in Germany had managed to check 3G measures in the past. In previous Covid waves, people had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a test to enter a venue, which is known as the 3G rules.

Commenting on the current situation, Lauterbach said there was a “favourable development” as Germany appears to be getting over the summer Covid wave. 

“The summer wave is now slowly starting to recede,” the SPD politician said. 

READ ALSO: Germany has passed peak of Covid summer wave, says RKI 

The number of Covid deaths are also going down, but is not yet “where we would like it to be”, Lauterbach said. And he warned that when there are more indoor contacts due to the cooler weather in autumn, as well as schools going back, the situation could change again. 

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