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What Germany recommends for people who’ve had the J&J jab

A doctor prepares the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a drive on the Berlin S-Bahn network in August.
A doctor prepares the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a drive on the Berlin S-Bahn network in August. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau
Germany is recommending that people who've had the Johnson and Johnson jab should get a second mRNA vaccine. Here's what you should know.

Germany, like several other countries worldwide including the UK and the US, is offering groups of the population a top-up Covid shot.

The measure is aimed at topping up immunity levels to protect people in the colder months when there’s more activity inside (where aerosols spread more easily), and in the face of the more transmissible Delta variant. 

As we’ve been reporting, most of the people getting a booster shot at the moment are at-risk groups like people in care homes, people over the age of 70 and those with immunity problems.  Our article on who can get booster shots has more information:

READ ALSO: Who can get a top-up Covid shot in Germany?

But there’s another large group that should consider getting a booster Covid injection, according to the German government’s vaccine advisory board. 

On October 7th, Germany’s Standing Vaccine Commission (STIKO) recommended in their preliminary findings that  “an additional mRNA vaccine dose” should be given to people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson, also called Janssen. 

Why are people being asked to get a booster jab?

STIKO says that in general, Covid-19 vaccines “effectively and persistently protect against severe illness and death from Covid-19”.

Being vaccinated also protects against the SARS-CoV-2 infection so it also reduces the risk of transmission.

But experts have found that Covid vaccination protection – like the flu vaccine – decreases over time “especially with regard to the prevention of asymptomatic infections and mild courses of disease”.

In older people, the immune response after vaccination is said to be generally lower “and vaccine breakthroughs can more often also lead to a severe course of disease”. 

That’s why STIKO generally advises people over the age of 70 as well as care home residents and. 

They should get the booster jab at least six months after their second shot “regardless of which vaccine was previously used”.

STIKO also says that In the case of mRNA vaccines, the same vaccine used for the first immunisation should be used if possible.

For people with immunodeficiency, STIKO recommends the third vaccination dose as early as four weeks after the second jab. Check with your GP for more information.

What about J&J?

If you’ve had the Johnson & Johnson or Janssen jab – which requires just one shot to become fully vaccinated – then it’s recommended that you get a second mRNA jab.

Previously, people who had been given J&J also had to wait six months to get the booster shot, but STIKO says it should be earlier.  About 3.2 million people in Germany received the J&J vaccine. 

STIKO calls this “optimisation of basic immunisation”. STIKO says most Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough cases in Germany have been seen in people who’ve had the Johnson & Johnson shot. 

“Furthermore, a comparatively low vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant was observed for the Janssen vaccine in contrast to the other licensed vaccines,” they said. 

READ ALSO: Germany agrees to offer Covid booster shots from September

Experts say that due to the “insufficient vaccination protection after the only one recommended vaccine dose so far with this vaccine,” STIKO recommends “optimising a basic immunisation of the Covid vaccine Janssen with an mRNA vaccine as a further dose”.

People who’ve had one vaccine dose of J&J “should receive an additional mRNA vaccine dose starting four weeks after the Janssen vaccination”, say STIKO. 

While vaccination effectiveness was still at an average of 92 percent in March, it declined to about 54 percent by August. “Our analysis of infections by vaccine type, including Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson, ed.) vaccines, suggests that vaccine protection against infections declines over time, particularly for the Janssen vaccine,” the research team writes in its study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed by independent experts.

STIKO says these recommendations are the initial findings and they are being reviewed by expert groups and the German states. So there may be some slight changes in the final recommendation paper. 

How do you get a booster jab?

The best thing to do is to contact your doctor and talk to them about it. You can also make an appointment at a vaccination centre, or find a drop-in clinic in your area. Remember to bring proof of your previous vaccinations. Some doctors may want to wait until the full recommendation has been published. Or if they are unaware then show them the STIKO findings.

Note that the booster jab – as with all Covid vaccines – is not mandatory. And people who’ve had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still considered fully vaccinated after the prescribed one dose. 

“The ‘fully vaccinated’ status of those persons who already have full vaccination protection does not change as a result of the offer for booster vaccinations,” a spokesperson for the Health Ministry told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND). “This also applies with the recommendations of the STIKO.”

Around 65.8 percent of the German population has received one jab, and 68.8 percent are fully vaccinated. 


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