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HEALTH

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Seasonal flu vaccines, Covid boosters, and the monkeypox vaccine are recommended for risk groups in Germany as it gets colder. Here’s what you need to know.

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?
A nurse gives a flu shot (Photo by JEAN-PIERRE MULLER / AFP)

Flu cases are way up in Germany this year – back to over 22,000 nationwide so far, and those are just the laboratory-confirmed ones. With many Covid-19 restrictions also having slowed the spread of flu in 2020 and 2021, German doctors are particularly encouraging at-risk groups to get this year’s flu vaccine.

Who?

In principle, anyone in Germany can speak to their doctor and get the flu vaccine. However, it is recommended particularly for certain at-risk groups.

According to the German Robert Kock Institute (RKI), which advises the government on viruses, these groups include:

  • anyone over the age of 60
  • pregnant women from their second trimester
  • people with chronic underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, or various heart conditions
  • People who live or work in care homes
  • Medical personnel
  • People who work in areas with particularly high amounts of traffic. These could include schools or Kitas, for example
  • People who live with or care for someone from one of these groups

When?

Flu season’s peak is normally expected in January. That’s why doctors advise you to have your protection in place before then. So the best time to get vaccinated for the flu is between October and December.

With the vaccine taking about 10-14 days to kick in, doctors advise making sure you have the shot by mid-December, so that when the season peaks in January, your body is prepared to fight off the virus if you come in contact with it.

Where?

The easiest place to get a flu vaccine is at your doctor’s office. However, some health authorities run public vaccination campaigns, depending on your federal state. Some workplaces may also administer flu shots on site once a year.

For the first time this season though, pharmacies in Germany will be able to administer a flu shot to any adult with statutory health insurance. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they do it.

Can I get the flu shot at the same time as my Covid-19 booster shot?

In most cases, there are no restrictions on getting the flu shot and a Covid booster at the same time. Most flu vaccines given in Germany are inactivated viruses, which can be administered simultaneously with a flu shot. You don’t have to wait between getting one shot and getting the other.

If giving it you at the same time, your doctor will likely use both arms – one for each vaccine.

READ ALSO: What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

What about Monkeypox?

Germany has now seen its total number of reported monkeypox cases hit 3,656—with around half of all cases being reported in Berlin. With more and more people getting vaccinated though, the seven-day average of new infections has slowed from a peak of 71 per day in mid-July to less than one a day in October.

That’s far less than the US rate of 105 a day or even Spain at just over four a day.

The vast majority of cases worldwide and in Germany have been detected in gay and bisexual men, whom German health authorities are still advising to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

Other risk groups include people who work in certain laboratories where they might become exposed, and people who have already potentially been exposed.

Someone who suspects they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox is advised to get a vaccine shot within four days.

READ ALSO: Who can get the monkeypox vaccine in Germany – and how?

Member comments

  1. My children and I got our flu vaccines from the US military last week. Being sick is no fun. Everyone should get it, not just “at-risk” groups.

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HEALTH

‘Breaking point’: Why German pediatric wards are filling to capacity

Overcrowded patient rooms, days-long stays in the ER, transfer of sick babies to hospitals more than 100 kilometers away: the current wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in Germany is pushing children's hospitals to their limits. 

'Breaking point': Why German pediatric wards are filling to capacity

The German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi) said on Thursday that there was a “catastrophic situation” in children’s intensive care units. 

According to the physicians, a wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections can be expected every year starting in the autumn. 

Yet this year “there are fewer and fewer pediatric hospital beds available overall” as well as a lack of nursing staff, Divi Secretary General Florian Hoffmann explained Wednesday on ZDF’s Morgenmagazin.

Because all beds were full in one case, a child was transferred from the Hannover Medical School (MHH) to Magdeburg on Friday night, a distance of around 150 kilometers. 

“My colleagues had called 21 clinics,” said Gesine Hansen, Medical Director of the MHH Clinic for Pediatric Pneumology, Allergology and Neonatology, told DPA. 

The child, who was about one-year old, had an RSV infection, which can be life-threatening, especially for babies and children with pre-existing conditions.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

‘Catching up’

Some health experts have said that hospitals are now filled to capacity because children had minimal social contact during the pandemic and are now catching up on infections.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), an estimated 5.6 severe cases of RSV respiratory illness occur worldwide per 1,000 children in the twelve months after birth. 

Within the first year of life, 50 to 70 percent would typically have experienced at least one infection with RSV, and by the end of the second year of life, nearly all children should have experienced at least one infection. 

In the wake of protective measures against Covid-19, however, many such infections had temporarily failed to materialise. 

‘Breaking point’

According to Divi, hardly any clinics had a free crib or free pediatric intensive care bed in the past few days.

“Children have to lie in the emergency room for days,” Hoffmann said.

Yet the peak of the current wave of respiratory infections in children has by no means been reached, Hoffmann said. “The situation in practices and clinics will get even worse in the coming weeks.”

“We are at the breaking point,” said Matthias Keller, head of the Children’s Hospital Dritter Orden Passau already. The rooms are often double-occupied, he said. In some cases, there were too few monitors and not enough equipment for respiratory support.

READ ALSO: Flu season makes a comeback in Germany

A child with RSV being treated at the Olgahospital in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

“Some patient rooms are like bed storage areas, where you really have to crawl over the beds to get to the sick child, because the parent bed is lined up with the patient bed,” said Keller, who is also chairman of the South German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

This has far-reaching consequences for other young children who need treatment. When an infant who has just been resuscitated is admitted to a children’s hospital that is actually fully occupied, a three-year-old has to wait there for the third day in a row for his urgently needed heart operation.

‘Responsibility of politicians’

A wave of infections usually lasts six to eight weeks. In Bavaria, Lower Saxony and Berlin, as well as North Rhine-Westphalia, clinics are reporting a “maximally tense situation,” reported Divi on Thursday.

The Düsseldorf University Hospital, for example, is experiencing a wave of influenza among its young patients in addition to the RSV wave, which is “causing massive problems primarily for children up to elementary school age,” said University Hospital spokesman Tobias Pott.

In the Rhineland, “all beds are completely full” at times, said Jörg Dötsch, president of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. An ER waiting time of six to seven hours is not uncommon, he says. 

“It is very unpleasant when children and their families have to virtually camp out in the emergency room,” says Dötsch, who is also director of the Clinic for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the University Hospital in Cologne. 

READ ALSO: Healthcare in Germany: How to get a faster appointment with a specialist doctor

What are the solutions?

At their meeting on Thursday in Hamburg, intensive care physicians and intensive care nurses will discuss approaches to solving the crisis. 

One solution may be to temporarily bring nursing staff from adult facilities into the children’s hospitals, says Hoffmann, who is also a senior physician at Dr. von Hauner’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Munich. 

But above all, he says, many more pediatric nursing staff need to be trained. “We need to strengthen nursing,” he explained. “Only then do we have a chance.”

Others said more money needed to be invested in pediatric medicine and vaccines, even if it is less profitable.

“The fact that children’s lives are currently in danger is the responsibility of politicians,” said Jakob Maske, spokesman for the Professional Association of Pediatricians and Adolescents.

“Nowadays medicine has to be profitable – not cure diseases, but make money.”

READ ALSO: How private investors are buying up healthcare practices in Germany

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