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COVID-19 VACCINES

German vaccines commission recommends fourth Covid jab for over-60s

Germany's Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has issued a recommendation for all over-60s in Germany to get a fourth Covid vaccination.

Nurse prepares dose of Pfizer vaccine
A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a Bavarian vaccination centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

Previously, STIKO had only suggested a second booster – or fourth Covid jab – for people aged 70 or over, or people aged five and over with weakend immune systems and a particular high risk of a severe course of illness.

People with compromised immune systems are still advised to seek out a fourth dose of the vaccine. 

The vaccines panel announced on Thursday that it was expanding its recommendation “with the primary aim of providing particularly at-risk individuals with even better protection against severe Covid 19 diseases and Covid 19-related deaths”. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I get a second Covid booster jab in Germany?

As a general rule, the fourth dose of vaccine should be an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech and should be administered no sooner than six months after the third dose or last Covid infection.

In some “justified” cases, this can be shortened to four months.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) welcomed the news on Thursday, stating that the recommendation was “overdue”. 

“I definitely advise citizens over 60 to follow STIKO’s advice and not wait for the new vaccines,” Lauterbach told t-online, referring to a new set of vaccines designed specifically to combat infections with Omicron subtypes BA.4 and BA.5. 

The number of cases and deaths is still too high, he added. “The vaccines available in Germany, however, reliably protect against death and severe progression of the virus.”

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

It’s that time of year again when many of us will be coughing and blowing our noses. If you're feeling a bit under the weather, here are the German words you'll need and some tips on what to do.

Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

Corona – In German, Covid is most commonly called Corona. Self-isolation and quarantine (Quarantänepflicht) rules currently vary from state to state, but if you test positive for Covid, you’ll generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10. 

READ ALSO: Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

Eine Erkältung – this is the German term for a common cold. You can tell people “I have a cold” by saying either saying: ich habe eine Erkältung or ich bin erkältet.

A cold usually involves eine laufende Nase – a runny nose – so make sure you have a good supply of Taschentücher (pocket tissues) at home.

If you have a verstopfte Nase (blocked nose) you can buy a simple nasal spray (Nasenspray) from your local drugstore. 

But in Germany, because only pharmacies are able to sell medicines, you will need to pay a visit to die Apotheke if you want to get anything stronger.

READ ALSO: Why are medicines in Germany only available in pharmacies?

At the pharmacy, the pharmacist will usually need you to describe your symptoms, by asking you: Welche Symptome haben Sie?

A woman with a cold visits a pharmacy.

A woman with a cold visits a pharmacy. Photo: pa/obs/BPI | Shutterstock / Nestor Rizhniak

If it’s a cold you’re suffering from, you may have Halsschmerzen or Halsweh (sore throat), Kopfschmerzen (headache) or Husten (cough).

For a sore throat, you might be given Halstabletten or Halsbonbon (throat lozenges).

If you’re buying cough medicine you will probably be asked if you have a dry, chesty cough – Reizhusten – or if it is a produktiver Husten (wet, productive cough).

If you have one of these you may need some Hustensaft or Hustensirup (cough medicine). If you have a headache, you may also want to pick up a packet of Ibuprofen.

While selecting your Medikamente (medication), the pharmacist might ask you a couple of questions, such as:

Sind Sie mit diesen Medikamenten vertraut?

Are you familiar with this medication?

Haben Sie irgendwelche Unverträglichkeiten?

Do you have any intolerances?

They will also tell you about any Nebenwirkungen (side effects) the medicine could have.

Die Grippe – if you’ve struck down with a more serious illness, it’s likely to be die Grippe – the flu.

Flu symptoms usually include Fieber (fever), Schüttelfrost (chills), Gliederschmerzen (muscle aches), Schmerzen (aches) and Appetitlosigkeit (loss of appetite). While both Erkältungen and Grippe are very ansteckend (contagious), flu is usually more debilitating and might require a visit to the doctor.

However, as the pandemic is still with us, many German doctors’ surgeries (Arztpraxen) still ask patients to stay away or come in during special hours if they have cold or flu symptoms. 

But if you need a sick note (eine AU-Bescheinigung) and are suffering from mild respiratory diseases, you can get this over the phone, until at least November 30th, 2022.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

If you are really unwell, however, you will need to go to the doctor at some point to get ein Rezept – a prescription. More serious cold and flu-related illnesses (Krankheiten) often involve Entzündungen (inflammations), which are often schmerzhaft (painful) and cause Rötung (redness).

Common inflammations include Nebenhöhlenentzündung (sinusitis), Bronchitis (bronchitis) and Mandelentzündung (tonsillitis).

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