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Booster shot in autumn: Here’s what you need to know about a third COVID vaccination

Booster shot in autumn : Here’s what you need to know about a third COVID vaccination

Starting in September, the elderly and those in need of long-term care are to receive a booster vaccination. Those who have been vaccinated twice with Astrazeneca or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also be eligible for a third vaccination.

A third COVID vaccination in September is to provide better protection against the Delta variant of coronavirus, especially for the very old and those in need of long-term care. The spread of the Delta variant in Germany continues to be on the increase right now. Health ministers of the federal and state governments made the decision about a third booster shot on Monday evening. Only vaccines from Biontech and Moderna are to be used and there are now sufficient vaccine doses available for all citizens, according to Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU).

■ Who should be offered a third vaccination in the fall?

The Conference of Health Ministers has initially decided to offer the COVID booster vaccine only to certain groups of the population - namely the very old, those in need of long-term care, and patients with immune deficiencies. The very old or elderly are generally considered to be people 80 years of age or older. "Initial study results indicate that there may be an increased incidence of reduced or rapidly declining immune response in certain groups of people following a full COVID 19 vaccination. This is particularly true for the group of patients who are significantly immunocompromised, as well as for the very elderly and those in need of long-term care," the ministers' decision states.

Also eligible for a vaccine booster in September will be those people who have received two doses of Astrazeneca or the single dose of Johnson&Johnson. They will all be able to receive a further vaccination with Biontech or Moderna.

■ Who should administer the third vaccinations?

Mobile vaccination teams will be deployed to nursing homes and other facilities beginning in September. Others who are eligible and live at home are to be offered the booster vaccinations by their primary care physicians. In all cases, the booster shots are to take place no earlier than six months after a person has been fully vaccinated.

■ Why should the elderly receive booster vaccinations first?

The health ministers point to initial study results showing that vaccination protection declines more quickly in older people because their immune systems respond less to the vaccines than in younger people. So far, however, the Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) does not have the necessary data to really recommend booster vaccinations against COVID 19 for older people. The head of family practitioners, Ulrich Weigeldt thus criticized the decision of the health ministers as premature. "Since the studies on booster vaccinations are still ongoing, I can only urge patience here. However, politics currently tends to rush past the scientific competence of Stiko," he said.

■ What do primary care physicians have to say about the decision?

Weigeldt made a plea for quickly incorporating primary care physicians in the planning for booster vaccinations. "This has not happened so far and has repeatedly thrown us into real chaos in the past year," said the national chairman of the family doctors' association. "One thing is certain: the people who work in our practices will not go through what we went through last time," the association chairman warned.

■ What do patient rights advocates say?

Germany's top patient advocate Eugen Brysch welcomed the decision in principle, but at the same time called for new vaccination offers for the 1.3 million elderly care workers in inpatient and outpatient care. "If nursing home residents and the very elderly are to be optimally protected, then all 1.3 million elderly care workers must also receive a targeted vaccination offer from September," said Brysch. He said that only an easily accessible vaccination offer for them would lead to success.

Orig. text: Birgit Marschall

Translation: ck