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COVID-19 VACCINES

German vaccines commission recommends fourth Covid jab for over-60s

Germany's Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has issued a recommendation for all over-60s in Germany to get a fourth Covid vaccination.

Nurse prepares dose of Pfizer vaccine
A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a Bavarian vaccination centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

Previously, STIKO had only suggested a second booster – or fourth Covid jab – for people aged 70 or over, or people aged five and over with weakend immune systems and a particular high risk of a severe course of illness.

People with compromised immune systems are still advised to seek out a fourth dose of the vaccine. 

The vaccines panel announced on Thursday that it was expanding its recommendation “with the primary aim of providing particularly at-risk individuals with even better protection against severe Covid 19 diseases and Covid 19-related deaths”. 

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

As a general rule, the fourth dose of vaccine should be an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech and should be administered no sooner than six months after the third dose or last Covid infection.

In some “justified” cases, this can be shortened to four months.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) welcomed the news on Thursday, stating that the recommendation was “overdue”. 

“I definitely advise citizens over 60 to follow STIKO’s advice and not wait for the new vaccines,” Lauterbach told t-online, referring to a new set of vaccines designed specifically to combat infections with Omicron subtypes BA.4 and BA.5. 

The number of cases and deaths is still too high, he added. “The vaccines available in Germany, however, reliably protect against death and severe progression of the virus.”

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

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HEALTH

German pharmacies see supply shortage of around 250 medications

German pharmacies are sounding the alarm due to a shortage of items including high blood pressure medications, fever syrups and ibuprofen.

German pharmacies see supply shortage of around 250 medications

The head of the German Pharmacist’s Association is warning of a “timebomb” on supply shortages in the country’s pharmacies.

Hans-Peter Hubmann, chairman of the Deutscher Apothekerverband (DAV), says pharmacies around the country are increasingly seeing delivery delays or simply running out of medications.

“Right now there’s about 250 medications listed as being simply undeliverable,” he said as the DAV prepared to mark World Patient Safety Day on Saturday.

Some medication shortages have been going on for months, or even years in some cases, said Hubmann, but the problem has recently gotten worse. DAV reports there was an absolute shortage of the tamoxifen breast cancer drug in both April and May, leaving the patients affected with little recourse at that time.

Shortages are also not simply in niche drugs, but in stocks of medications that are widely used, such as children’s fever syrup, blood pressure medications, and painkillers.

READ ALSO: Why are medicines in Germany only available in pharmacies?

“There’s always a few bottlenecks here and there because of a supplier failure, but less than half the products currently affected had shortages five years ago,” he said.

The DAV says China’s current ‘zero-Covid’ approach has made the problem worse because many producers no longer find it economical to produce certain medicines in Europe. Fever syrup, to use one example, is under a price cap – limiting the incentive to produce it in Europe. With active ingredients produced in China or other East Asian countries, the lockdowns at Chinese ports prevent certain medicines from being shipped to Europe in a timely manner.

“That’s why we’ve been demanding that active ingredient production takes place in Europe again,” Hubmann said, asking for politicians to create incentives for companies to do so.

However, he says that even if they did, it would take five to 10 years for the supply problems to alleviate. “That doesn’t happen overnight,” he says.

Vocabulary:

Pharmacist – (der) Apotheke/(die) Apothekerin

An Association (often, but not always, used in the context of trade associations) – (der) Verband

Medication – (das) Medikament

Delivery bottlenecks – (die) Lieferengpässe

Painkillers – (die) Schmerzmittel

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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