Germany makes J&J vaccine available to all adults: What you need to know

Germany makes J&J vaccine available to all adults: What you need to know
A man receives a vaccine with Johnson & Johnson in Cologne on Saturday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser
Millions of people will be able to be vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in the coming months without belonging to a priority group, German health ministers decided on Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the shots from the American manufacturer.

Prioritisation has been lifted for administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in doctors’ offices – both GPs and specialists – and by company physicians.

According to federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Monday, this should allow Germany’s vaccination campaign to continue “pragmatically” and “with speed”.

READ ALSO: Germany lifts priority limits to offer Johnson & Johnson jabs to all

As with the AstraZeneca vaccine, also open to all adults since last week, you can contact your doctor if you’re interested. Or call around doctors in your area to say you’re open to a vaccine from these providers.

What is the state of J&J vaccine in Germany?

Unlike other vaccines on the market, one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is enough for full protection against Covid-19, according to the manufacturer.

However, similar to the vaccine from manufacturer AstraZeneca, it can occasionally come with severe side effects for people under 60, which is why there is a requirement to have a consultation with a doctor first for both vaccines in Germany.

Vaccinations through the US manufacturer began in Germany at the end of April, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). So far, slightly under 20,000 jabs have been administered in Germany. 

Spahn said 450,000 doses had been delivered to the country, but the mobile vaccination teams in refugee and homeless facilities, which have primarily administered the jabs so far, often report vaccinations at a later date.

That number looks likely to ramp up in the coming months: 10 million doses of J&J should be delivered by the end of July, according to Spahn.

However, refugee and homeless shelter officials expressed concern about the potential wide usage of the vaccine by the general public. 

As it is the only vaccine so far where one shot is enough, it should be reserved for communities for whom a second appointment is difficult to schedule, they said.

What is the state of vaccinations in Germany?

Overall, vaccination centres in Germany have now administered a total of more than 35 million doses of various Covid vaccines – slightly less than 27.3 million for first-time vaccinations and another just over 7.8 million for second-time vaccinations. 

According to the latest figures, 32.8 percent of people in Germany have received at least one vaccination, but only 9.4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. 

Saarland has the highest rate of administering at least one vaccine with 36.9 percent of the population receiving a dose. Brandenburg and Saxony are trailing behind with around 29 percent each.

Just last week, federal and state health ministers also decided that Covid-19 vaccinations with manufacturer AstraZeneca would also be made available to anyone who wanted one, following a consultation with their doctors. 

READ ALSO: Germany gives green light to offer AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults

Up to that point, only a handful of states had lifted the priority order for AstraZeneca, opening it up to everyone. That included Berlin and Bavaria.

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

What are the risks associated with Johnson & Johnson?

Germany’s Conference of Health Ministers states that it takes “seriously the reported cases of cerebral venous thrombosis associated with vaccination with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine”.

Vaccinations with the drug were temporarily suspended in the US due to these risks.

But after a review of safety data, authorities there then concluded that the known and potential benefits outweighed the risks. Similar side effects – specific blood clots associated with a lack of platelets – occurred with AstraZeneca’s other available vector vaccine.

With Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, they occur at a rate of about seven per million vaccinated women aged between 18 to 49, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“In women 50 and older, and men of all ages, this adverse event is even less common,” stated the health ministers.

Based on the data available so far, experts said they see no evidence that women who use hormonal contraceptives such as the pill may be at greater risk, as was previously reported.

In Germany, there have been no reports of complications due to Johnson & Johnson so far, a PEI spokeswoman said. The side effect usually occurs in the first three weeks after vaccination. 

The Standing Commission on vaccines (STIKO) had also generally recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 60 and older as well. In this case, too, it was mainly younger women who were affected by the side effects.

However, STIKO also pointed out that in the initial phase, significantly more women than men were vaccinated with AstraZeneca. 

Vaccinations at homeless shelters and refugee centres

The National Association for the Homeless called the recommendation that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine be given to people over 60, as well as opening it up to the general public, “bitter”.

“The not very high vaccination rate among homeless people is also due to the fact that many municipalities were waiting for the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson,” Executive Director Werena Rosenke told DPA. 

Homeless people in particular often have pre-existing conditions and should be vaccinated as soon as possible, she added. 

The chief executive of the German Association of Cities, Helmut Dedy, told DPA: “The cities need the Johnson & Johnson vaccine especially for people who are difficult to reach because they have no permanent residence or live in precarious social circumstances.” 

READ ALSO: Germany reaches milestone of 30 percent of population vaccinated against Covid


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