Germany will offer Covid booster shots from September and make it easier for 12 to 17-year-olds to get a shot, the health ministry said Monday, amid concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.
Health Minister Jens Spahn and his 16 regional colleagues agreed after talks that the elderly and at-risk groups should receive a booster shot, citing concerns about “a reduced or rapidly declining immune response” in some groups.
Mobile vaccination teams should be sent to care and nursing homes, the text says, to offer Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna booster shots to residents, regardless of which vaccine they originally had.
Doctors will also be able to administer booster shots to those who qualify, including those with weakened immune systems.
A booster shot will also be offered to anyone who has received the two doses of AstraZeneca or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the document released by the Spahn Department said, “in the interest of preventive health care.”
Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are viral vector vaccines, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use novel mRNA technology that has shown high efficacy in studies.
The ministers also agreed to make the coronavirus vaccine more widely available to those over the age of 12, which is a step beyond the country’s STIKO vaccine regulator.
The regulator currently recommends the coronavirus vaccine only for 12-17 year olds if they have pre-existing conditions or are living with people at high risk for Covid.
Although adolescents who do not fall into those categories are still allowed to be vaccinated, careful STIKO guidance in consultation with their parents and doctors has delayed the admission.
Germany’s health ministers agreed on Monday to encourage vaccination among teenagers by opening all of the country’s vaccination centers to 12-17-year-olds, in addition to the option to get vaccinated in mainstream clinics.
Ministers stressed that the shot was voluntary but said vaccinating children and teenagers “could significantly contribute to a safe return to classrooms after the summer break”.
Vaccination rate among adults still important, says health official
Although Germany currently has relatively low infection rates compared to neighboring countries, the number of cases has been creeping up in recent weeks mainly because of the more contagious Delta variant.
There are also concerns about a slowdown in the country’s vaccination coverage, with just over 52 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
Within the European Union, the European Medicines Agency has approved Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna injections for all individuals over 12 years of age.
STIKO head Thomas Mertens told public radio MDR that the body was still waiting for data from long-term studies before deciding to issue a more general vaccine recommendation for people over 12.
The problem, he added, “is not so much the vaccinations of the children”.
What is needed to help quell a fourth wave of Covid in Germany “is high vaccination coverage among 18- to 59-year-olds”.