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COVID-19 VACCINES

German public health authority to investigate ‘underreported’ Covid jabs

Polls by Germany's Robert Koch Institute suggest that the number of first Covid vaccine doses has been underestimated - so it's conducting a new survey to get to the truth.

German public health authority to investigate 'underreported' Covid jabs
People wait in line at the Messe Covid vaccination centre in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

According to a report by German daily Welt, the Institute will survey 3,000 German adults in early autumn to try and uncover their attitudes towards vaccination and how many are willing to get (or have already had) a Covid shot. 

The move is an attempt to obtain accurate vaccination numbers after the RKI highlighted major discrepancies between its own polling and the government’s figures as published on the digital dashboard 

The most dramatic difference was in the 18-59 age group, where RKI’s Covid monitoring wing, Covimo, found that 79 percent of those surveyed had been given at least one dose of vaccine.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Is Germany underestimating its Covid vaccination numbers?

At the time, the government’s figures suggested that only 59 percent of 18-59 year olds had had their first shot. The figures returned by RKI for the proportion of people fully inoculated matched the government’s almost exactly.

‘Measure of uncertainty’

The RKI believes that the real figure for first doses may be somewhere between the two figures, since there are issues with the methods used for obtaining information on both sides.

The should be a “measure of uncertainty” when interpreting the numbers, it said. 

For the government figures – which are compiled on the back of reports from vaccination centres, GPs, company physicians and mobile vaccination teams – there are suggestions that local doctors’ surgeries are underreported their vaccinations. 

READ ALSO: Here’s where (and why) Covid vaccine centres are due to close in Germany

There may also be issues with the consistency of the reporting of the number of Johnson & Johnson jabs given out, since most doctors only report the single-dose vaccine as a second dose.

Meanwhile, the RKI’s surveys could well have been biased towards those who were positively inclined towards vaccination, and also excluded residents of Germany who can’t speak the language. 

As of Friday, 56.6 percent of the population were fully vaccinated, while 63 percent had been given at least one dose – according to official figures.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Germany's federal vaccine agency says that people who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should no longer be classed as being fully vaccinated.

People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

People who’ve had J&J, sometimes known as Janssen, used to have full vaccination status after a single dose of the vaccine. 

Since January 15th, however, a single dose of J&J should no longer count as full vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s vaccine authority. 

In autumn last year the German government began recommending a second mRNA jab for people who’d had J&J – which many people thought was the booster vaccination. 

However, according to the PEI’s update on proof of vaccination within the Covid Protective Measures Exemption Ordinance and the Coronavirus Entry Ordinance, the second shot is needed to complete ‘basic immunisation’.

It is unclear at this stage if it means that people returning or coming to Germany from abroad with only one shot of J&J will be counted as partially vaccinated and therefore need to present tests or face other forms of barriers to entry. 

We are also looking into what this means for the various health pass rules in states, such as the 3G rules for transport. 

The Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German-language medical magazine, said: “Special rules according to which one dose was recognised as a complete vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are no longer applicable.”

The Local has contacted the German Health Ministry for clarification on what this means for those affected. 

According to the latest government figures, 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany so far in the vaccination campaign. 

The news will come as a shock to those who don’t know that they need another jab, or haven’t got round to getting their second vaccine yet. 

All other jabs – such as BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – already require two jabs. 

People in Germany are seen as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. 

What about boosters?

As The Local Germany has been reporting, the German government said in December that people who’ve had J&J need a third shot three months after their second dose to be considered boosted.

A German Health Ministry spokesman told us last week that due to more vaccination breakthrough infections affecting people who’ve had the J&J vaccine, extra protection was needed.

“Therefore, after completion of the basic immunisation as recommended by STIKO, i.e. after administration of two vaccine doses (preferably 1x J&J + 1x mRNA), following the current recommendation of the STIKO, a further booster vaccination can subsequently be administered with a minimum interval of a further three months, as with the other approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Health Ministry spokesman said. 

However, there has been much confusion on this front because some states have been accepting J&J and another shot as being boosted, while others haven’t.

READ ALSO:

It is unclear if the new regulation will mean that states will all have to only accept J&J and two shots as being boosted. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, for instance, updated its regulations on January 16th and now requires that people who’ve had J&J and one shot have another jab to be boosted. 

Having a booster shot in Germany means that you do not have to take a Covid-19 test if you’re entering a venue, such as a restaurant or cafe, under the 2G-plus rules.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that proof of complete vaccination protection against Covid takes into account “the current state of medical science”. 

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