Why has Germany given out 42 million extra vaccination certificates?

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has issued 42.6 million more digital vaccination certificates than vaccine doses - but the government claims there's a simple explanation.

A sign in a pharmacy window advertises digital vaccine passes
A sign in a pharmacy window advertises digital vaccine passes. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

According to information obtained by Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ), 204.7 million vaccination certificates had been issued by pharmacies and doctors in the run up to Friday. 

This is around 25 percent more than the some 162.1 million vaccinations reported on the Robert Koch Institutes (RKI) website as of Monday.

The discrepancy between the two figures has let some to question whether German officials may have drastically underestimated the number of vaccine doses given out so far, or whether the difference suggests there have been falsified certificates. 

However, a ministry spokesperson told NOZ that the could be “various reasons” for the 42 million extra certificates that had been issued.

“When they originally came into circulation, many certificates were automatically created by vaccination centres and sent to the vaccinated persons, while the persons concerned had often already been issued a certificate in a pharmacy,” they said. 

They also pointed out that certificates “could be issued more than once, for example if a person loses their copy”.

READ ALSO: Yellow booklets: How proving vaccinations in Germany changes in 2022

Nevertheless, the difference between vaccine doses administered and certificates printed has been growing rapidly in recent weeks.

According to the ministry, 162,397,255 digital vaccination certificates had been issued by December 15th at a time when, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 136,641,993 vaccination doses had been administered.

That means that, in mid-December, the “surplus” of certificates was still just under 26 million, compared to the current figure of more than 42 million.

During this period of time, the government was carrying out an ambitious booster jab campaign with targets of 30 million jabs within a month. This may have seen people pick up automatic proof of vaccination at state-run vaccination centres as well as getting a copy from their pharmacy. 

It also roughly coincides with the government bringing in blanket ‘2G’ rules (vaccinated or recovered only) across the country, which could have motivated people to dig out their old certificates or get new ones printed. 

Vaccinations carried out in doctors’ surgeries are organised by the Federal Association of Doctors (KBV), who told NOZ they could not explain the discrepancy. 

A spokesperson from the KBV said there didn’t seem to be underreporting based on available billing data, adding that in-depth analysis from the RKI would be needed to investigate the matter further.

According to NOZ, the RKI were unwilling to comment. 

READ ALSO: What you should know about Germany’s plans to roll out e-prescriptions

Meanwhile, Left Party health expert Kathrin Vogler called for urgent clarity on the matter.

Not everyone who’s been vaccinated would have got a digital certificate, she argued, which could point to a larger number of superfluous passes than the 42 million mentioned. 

“In that case, something would have gone wrong with more than every fourth vaccination,” she told NOZ.

Member comments

  1. My husband and I visited our son in Frankfurt before Christmas after traveling from the US. We went to the pharmacy and got our certificates registered. Where does that fit into the numbers?

  2. Exactly. I’d bet that Americans and NATO partners living here who get immunized on base (along with tourists from outside Europe) and then get QR codes from the pharmacies account for a large number.

  3. My wife and I got our booster vaccination in the UK over the Christmas period, since according to the German rules at the time we would have had to be in quarantine at the time our pre-booked boosters were due to be given to us at our German GP. We successfully had the certificates registered at our local chemist in Germany on our return and uploaded to our digital certificates on our phones. Thus may provide an explanation.

  4. Indeed. Many expats (and quite a few Germans) who couldn’t get a vaccine administered here went abroad, for their immunizations. I would venture to say MOST expats who could, did! It was such a bloody mess at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, and frankly the local Hausarzts couldn’t get priority appointments for expats who were in the high-risk categories.

  5. As a member of the local US NATO community I can assure you that getting our shots on base we were told to then go to a apothecary and get our EU digital pass. Many of us live in Netherlands and Belgium but we’re told to go to the German locations. They were setup for it. That’s what we did 4 x for 2 people on 2 rounds of shots. And now have to go back for our booster proof QR. These numbers still seem really high to me.

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Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for all children over five

The German Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has recommend that all children aged 5-11 receive a Covid-19 vaccination.

Germany's vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for all children over five

Children in this age group should be given a one-time jab with an mRNA vaccine, preferably with BioNTech/Pfizer, STIKO said on Tuesday. 

Up until this point, STIKO had only recommend that children aged five to 11 with pre-existing conditions, and those who have contact with at-risk individuals, be given Covid shots – although healthy children were able to get jabbed if their parents organised it with a doctor.

Experts said the majority of children have likely had a Covid infection. They estimated that 77.5 percent of 5-11 year olds have had at least one contact with the virus. 

For this reason, children aged 5-11 are only recommended to receive one Covid 19 vaccine dose for the time being, the standing committee said. 

In order to make the vaccine suitable for young children, Pfizer/BioNTech has developed a lower-dosed version of its Covid vaccine.

STIKO also said children aged six and older could get a Moderna jab.

The vaccination should be administered at least three months after a known infection, the recommendation states.

The recommendation has been made as a precautionary measure because a renewed increase in Covid infections is expected in autumn and winter, STIKO said.

“The initial one-time vaccination aims to build up as good a basic immunity as possible now,” experts said.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

In Germany, just under 20 percent of 5-11 year olds are vaccinated.

STIKO said that children who have already received two jabs shouldn’t receive another shot at the moment. 

But for children with underlying illnesses or who have contact with at-risk groups, STIKO confirmed the recommendation of basic immunisation with two doses as well as a booster jab on top of those. 

A general vaccination recommendation in Germany has been in place for children over the age of 12 for some time, while no Covid vaccine has yet been approved for children under five.