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COVID-19

Millions of Germans no longer considered ‘fully vaccinated’ on public transport

People who've had the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine could find themselves on the wrong side of '3G' rules this week as public transport operators say they will no longer be counted as fully vaccinated.

ICE train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof
Passengers enter an ICE train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test is needed to travel on trains in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

The change comes on the back of changes to the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ under German law.

Guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute and Ministry of Health now states that people who’ve had a shot of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) now require a second shot of either J&J an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech in order to be considered fully vaccinated. 

Previously, J&J had been the only Covid vaccine to require just one dose – rather than two – for full vaccination protection. 

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

Speaking to The Local on Tuesday, a spokesperson for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn confirmed that people who’ve had just one shot of J&J would need a negative test in order to travel on their trains in future.

“Unless passengers have been vaccinated or have recovered, they must carry proof of a negative Covid test,” the spokesperson said.

The definition of ‘vaccinated’ is based on guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which currently states that two shots are needed for full inoculation with J&J, the spokesperson confirmed.

“We are still in constant contact with the federal and state ministries and authorities regarding Covid,” they said. “The authorities are constantly adapting the pandemic response to the current situation – also in the area of mobility. We follow and implement these regulations.”

Since November 24th, the so-called ‘3G’ rule has applied on public transport, meaning customers should carry proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test in order to travel. 

If customers don’t have at least one of these documents with them, they are generally asked to leave the train at the next station and can also be hit with fines. 

READ ALSO: Germany brings in nationwide ‘3G’ rules on public transport

‘A scandal’ 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has faced harsh criticism for the sudden rule-change, which was described by German newspaper Welt as a “scandal”. 

“By shifting the information online, hundreds of thousands of people were downgraded overnight to unvaccinated without their knowledge and de facto excluded from public life until they received their (second) vaccination,” wrote Welt commentator Benjamin Stibi. 

Question marks remain about how quickly the new rules will be implemented by the states in other areas of public life where access is restricted to people who are fully vaccinated or recovered.

This includes the majority of indoor public spaces, such as non-essential shops, cinemas and gyms. 

Meanwhile, in hospitality businesses like bars, cafes and restaurants, fully vaccinated people require a negative test or a booster jab for entry. 

This means that those who have had a second jab after Johnson & Johnson – a dose that was previously considered a booster – could now require a negative test to eat out or meet friends for drinks.

READ ALSO: How Germany’s 2G-plus Covid rules have left millions of people confused

The rule change is also likely to have an impact on people who work on-site, as a ‘3G’ rule (vaccination, recovery or test) applies in the workplace.

It could also impact people travelling into Germany with one dose of J&J who may no longer be seen as fully vaccinated. The Local has contacted the Health Ministry for clarification on this point and we’ll updated you when we receive an answer.

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany since the start of the pandemic.

The country is expecting a delivery of a further 18 million doses this year. 

Member comments

  1. I am confused about this: I received J&J in April then a booster in December and am not eligible for another booster until March. Also, I got COVID in January and have a recovery certificate. Does anyone know if I will be considered ok for 2g+ until March (aka I won’t need a negative test)? Thanks!

    1. You still may have a hard time explaining it to the inspector in a restaurant.
      But you are technically and legally boosted after your second vaccination. This is as per the latest change that is just coming in.

      Your booster status will go away again in February (90 days after the second shot), and you will have to get a third vaccination in order to retain it.

  2. I see some good news coming in for people vaccinated with J&J.

    I got J&J in June last year and the second vaccination on 2nd Jan. Up until yesterday, the second vaccination was just the `second vaccination` and was not considered a booster. So it only made you fully vaccinated and not boosted.
    So until yesterday I wouldn’t be considered 2G plus and would require a negative test for entry in a restaurant or bar.

    But today, the rules have changed. If you had your `second vaccination more than 14days ago and less than 90 days ago`, you will be on equal footing with a classical 3/3 series.

    But this privilege will go away after 90 days of the second vaccination, forcing to get a third jab to be considered boosted again.

    Still very complicated, but comes as a relief I would say.

    So yeah- Long story short . Even for J&J , if you got your second vaccination 14 days back, you will be considered boosted.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

Germany's highest court ruled on Thursday that the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rule for employees in health and care sectors is constitutional.

Germany's top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

From mid-March this year, health and care workers in Germany have had to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered. 

If they can’t provide this proof they face fines or even bans from working – however it is unclear how widely it has been enforced due to concerns over staff shortages. 

On Thursday the constitutional court rejected complaints against the partial vaccination mandate, saying the protection of vulnerable people outweighs any infringement of employees’ rights.

The law covers employees in hospitals as well as care homes, clinics, emergency services, doctors’ surgeries and facilities for people with disabilities. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid vaccine mandate for health staff

The court acknowledged that the law meant employees who don’t want to be vaccinated would have to deal with professional consequences or change their job – or even profession. 

However, the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid as a health or care worker is constitutionally justified and proportionate, according to the judges.

They said that’s because compulsory vaccination in this case is about protecting elderly and sick people. These groups are at increased risk of becoming infected by Covid-19 and are more likely to become seriously ill or die.

The protection of vulnerable groups is of “paramount importance”, the resolution states.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach welcomed Thursday’s ruling and thanked health care facilities who have already implemented the vaccine mandate. He said: “The state is obliged to protect vulnerable groups”.

Course of the pandemic doesn’t change things

According to the ruling, the development of the pandemic in Germany is no reason to change course. 

The court based its decision on the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and medical societies, stating that it could still be assumed that a vaccination would protect against the Omicron variant.

It’s true that the protection of vaccines decreases over time, and most courses of disease are milder with the Omicron variant. Nevertheless, the institution-based vaccination obligation remains constitutional because, according to the experts, the higher risk for old and sick people has not fundamentally changed.

A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote held in April

MPs had been allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue rather than having to vote along party lines. 

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