Germany’s vaccine panel plans to recommend Covid boosters for all over 18s

Germany's vaccine panel plans to recommend Covid boosters for all over 18s
A doctor's assistant in NRW issues a booster jab. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Friso Gentsch
The chairman of Germany’s Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) expects the panel to issue a recommendation for booster vaccinations for everyone over the age of 18 when they meet on Wednesday.

Until now, STIKO has recommended booster vaccinations primarily for the over 70s and for staff in medical facilities.

But the STIKO chairman, Thomas Mertens, told the ZDF Talkshow on Tuesday evening that he expects the Commission to issue a recommendation for booster vaccinations against the coronavirus from everyone over the age of 18 when they meet on Wednesday.

The German government already recommends booster jabs to everyone over 18 in Germany. Those at risk, such as the over 60s, people who live in care homes and medical staff and carers, are particularly urged to get a top-up injection.

The general advice has been to get a Covid jab six months after the last dose. However, for those who have had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the government advises to get it four weeks after the single-shot vaccine. 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has also told doctors in Germany that everyone over the age of 18 should be able to get a booster vaccination against Covid-19, even before six months have elapsed since their last shot.

In a letter from Spahn and the chairman of the Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians to all contract physicians in Germany, the six month interval was said to be a “temporal guideline, which of course cannot be adhered to on a daily basis.”

Pressure has been growing on STIKO to give the go ahead for issuing booster shots to patients due the increasing number of so-called ‘vaccination breakthroughs’ – vaccinated patients who get Covid-19, which is likely due to waning immunity.

According to the German Hospitals Association (DKG) the number of unvaccinated patients in intensive care has fallen from 90 percent in September 2021 to 74 percent at the beginning of November.

However, experts say that getting vaccinated against Covid significantly reduces the risk of developing a severe course of the disease. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany’s booster campaign has failed to take off

Criticism of the plans 

The expected recommendation has provoked criticism from some physicians’ representatives and patient advocates.

The Chairman of Family Doctors’ Association, Ulrich Weigeldt, told the Funke Mediengruppe that “for less vulnerable, younger healthy people, it is not necessary, according to current medical knowledge, to carry out a booster vaccination after six months to the day…it must be taken into account that this would possibly take place at the expense of vulnerable patients”.

Eugen Brysch, Chairman of the German Patient Protection Foundation, expressed similar views and warned against a “vaccination rush” on doctors’ offices, predicting that they would not be able to cope if they were suddenly required to issue millions of booster vaccinations.

“Now, with a tight vaccination supply and few vaccination sites, it’s up to the State Premiers’ Conference to ensure an orderly booster process,” he said.

German state leaders and the federal government are to meet on Thursday to discuss the current Covid crisis.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel advises against Moderna jab for under 30s

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