States across Germany have been issuing top-up jabs to certain groups of the population after the federal Health Ministry announced in August that it would be rolling out booster shoots for people in need of addition immune protection.
The move is a “precautionary measure” according to Health Minister Jens Spahn to give people more protection from Covid over the autumn and winter months, particularly in light of the more transmissible Delta variant.
What’s the latest?
On October 7th, the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO), which advises the government on vaccine matters, recommended in principle “a third vaccination, the so-called booster, for all people over 70 years of age”.
STIKO recommended booster vaccinations for people with a weakened immune system in September. Extra jabs are also recommended for residents of old people’s homes, nursing staff and other employees with direct contact to people in outpatient and inpatient care facilities.
The booster jab in Germany is an mRNA vaccine – that’s Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.
People who’ve only so far received a vector-vaccine (i.e. two shots of AstraZeneca or one shot of Johnson & Johnson) are also eligible for a top-up jab. This is also carried out with one of the mRNA vaccines, to give this group the additional immunity that is believed to come from mixing and maxing (Kreuzimpfung) the two types of vaccine.
Here’s a glance at who is eligible for a booster shot in Germany right now:
- People aged 70 and over
- Residents in care homes
- People in care facilities, facilities for integration assistance and other facilities with vulnerable groups
- People with a weakened immune system (for example those with autoimmune diseases or who have had a transplant)
- Individuals who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Johnson & Johnson
- Medical workers or carers (including care home employees)
Should I wait a certain period of time after my last jab?
People should generally wait at least six months after their last jab to get an additional one, since this is believed to be the period of time it takes for the level of protection offered by the vaccines to decline.
As Germany had a priority list at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, six months or more has passed for many of the groups eligible for the booster jab.
But for people with immunodeficiency, STIKO recommends the third vaccination dose as early as four weeks after the second jab. It may depend on your personal circumstances so check with your GP.
A Local reader also pointed out to us that STIKO advises people who’ve had one shot of Johnson & Johnson to get a booster shot four weeks after their jab.
STIKO said that most Covid-19 vaccination breakthrough cases in Germany have involved people who got the J&J vaccine, which is sometimes called Janssen.
“Furthermore, a comparatively low vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant was observed for the Janssen vaccine in contrast to the other licensed vaccines,” STIKO said.
Due to the insufficient vaccination protection after the only one recommended vaccine dose so far with this vaccine, the STIKO recommends optimising basic immunisation with the COVID-19 vaccine Janssen with an mRNA vaccine as a further dose. People who have received one vaccine dose of Covid-19 Vaccine Janssen so far should receive an additional mRNA vaccine dose starting 4 weeks after the Janssen vaccination.”
How many booster jabs are being given out?
According to figures released on Friday, around 60,000 top-up shots are being administered every day throughout Germany.
In Germany, more than 77 percent of people of vaccine-eligible age (aged 12 and above) have received at least one Covid shot. A total of 73.7 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Why are people getting a booster jab?
STIKO says vaccination protection after Covid jabs “decreases over time, especially with regard to the prevention of asymptomatic infections and mild courses of disease”.
In older age, the immune response after vaccination is also lower overall, and so-called vaccination breakthroughs, i.e. illnesses despite complete vaccinations, can more often also lead to a severe course of the disease.
The patients who end up in intensive care despite vaccination are in the vast majority of cases over 80, or people over 60 with particular immune deficiencies, said DIVI President Gernot Marx in an interview with BR24.
“Here, the Commission’s recommendation is that a third booster vaccination is recommended for this age group and this group of patients,” he said. “And that is also quite clearly our recommendation. And this also includes those who care for the patients on a daily basis. Like myself. I too have taken up our hospital’s offer and have been vaccinated a third time.”
How can I get the jab?
That partly depends on which of the groups you fall into, and can vary from state to state. For the elderly and those in need of care, mobile vaccination teams will be heading out into the community to visit care homes and other facilities for the vulnerable.
In some states, you can also get your top-up jab at one of the remaining vaccination centres – though you will probably have to show evidence of your vaccination history, since due to data protection rules they may no longer have that information even if you got your initial jabs there.
For most people, however, the jabs will be carried out by their local GP or company doctor on request. Check with your GP if you have any questions.
If you fall into one of the groups, call up your doctor’s surgery or local vaccination centre and let them know you are keen for a booster. Be prepared to show evidence of your need for one, such as your vaccine booklet with your previous vaccination history, or proof of age or illness, if they don’t have this information already.
Who pays for the booster jab?
The vaccination is free of charge, just like the other doses. The federal government pays for the vaccine with taxpayer funds, and the states and health insurance funds finance the vaccination centres.
Does the top-up vaccination have new side effects?
So far, no new side effects or vaccine reactions have been reported. In the USA, where more than two million people have already received a third dose, some local reactions have become slightly more common after the third dose. These include pain at the injection site.
Christoph Spinner, infectiologist and pandemic officer at the Rechts der Isar Clinic of the Technical University of Munich, says the side effects are comparable to those of the first two injections.
Who can’t get a booster shot right now?
People who’ve been double-jabbed with an mRNA vaccine and don’t fall into the above groups don’t qualify for a top-up shot at the moment.
Most medical professionals consider the recommendations to be the right way forward.
Will these groups get a jab later?
This what the Health Ministry seems to be planning – although it is possible that the next government takes a different route.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) completed an order for around 200 million doses of (primarily) mRNA vaccines – enough to give every resident of Germany an addition round of jabs in 2022. More recently, media reports suggested he was considering rolling out boosters to the general population “as a second step” after offering them to those who needed them most.