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COVID-19 VACCINES

France ‘can manage fifth Covid wave without extra restrictions’

France is dealing with a fifth wave of Covid-19, government spokesman Gabriel Attal has admitted as new daily cases rise, hitting an average of 10,000 new cases per day for the first time since September.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Covidtracker statistics show that the current seven-day rolling daily average of cases is 10,031, up 38 percent week on week. Daily figures for Tuesday, November 16th, alone, jumped above 20,000, although daily rates can fluctuate due to reporting anomalies.

“We knew that this wave could happen, the situation in some countries sounded a warning,” Attal said after the weekly ministers’ meeting.

He added: “The incidence rate is particularly high in Corsica, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Pays-de-la-Loire.”

The incidence rate has exceeded 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 21 départements, according to Santé Publique France – and averages 105 nationally, while the R rate is currently 1.26. 

Any R rate figure greater than one indicates that the virus is spreading again, rather than being in retreat.

“The epidemic is accelerating everywhere and the virus is gaining ground,” Attal said. But, he added: “We’re crossing each wave better than previous ones.”

He went on: “We are learning each time how to manage this epidemic, (…) each time we have new tools which allow us to contain this epidemic and, in particular, its impact on hospitals.”

In common with other European countries, high vaccination rates mean that the proportion of Covid patients ending up in hospital or dying is much lower than in previous waves.

On November 9th, 6,912 patients with Covid-19 were hospitalised in France, a three percent week-on-week increase from the 6,741 hospitalisations recorded on November 3rd, Santé Publique France revealed in its last weekly statement on the pandemic. Intensive care cases were up four percent week-on-week, from 1,104 on November 2nd to 1,153 on November 9th. 

Latest Covidtracker figures indicate 1,277 people were in critical care on November 16th, with new admissions running at 85 per day. The death toll from the virus currently averages 36 per day.

Attal pointed out that, at this time last year, France was in a period of lockdown.

“The number of new cases [in 2020] was in the tens of thousands. And we were reaching a record number of patients hospitalised with Covid.

“We are light years away from this situation today. We owe it to the vaccine, to the health pass and, of course, to everyone’s efforts. We therefore have all the cards in the face of this fifth wave,” he added.

“The tools we have – the health pass, vaccination, booster doses – allow us to be confident. But we have to continue our efforts – they can get us through the winter without additional measures.”

On November 17th, 2020, France recorded an average of more than 16,600 confirmed cases every day – against a little more than 10,000 today, according to data from CovidTracker.

But healthcare systems in France are under less pressure. Some 7,535 people are currently hospitalised with Covid-19, compared to more than 33,000 at this time last year.

Attal said that there had been a rise in the number of people getting vaccinated. “Appointments for a first injection (of vaccine) have increased 20 percent,” he said. “This is a very good sign.”

In addition, a record 200,000 booster doses were administered yesterday across the country, Attal said. 

In total, 51,575,242 people had received at least one dose of vaccine as of November 15th, according to the Health Ministry, with 50,491,909 people having had two doses.

A further 4,619,325 eligible people have had their third booster dose.

From December 1st, people aged 50-64 who have been doubly vaccinated against Covid-19 for at least six months can get a booster dose. Booking slots for December have just opened on the medical appointment platforms.

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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.

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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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