Information on coronavirus vaccination
COVID-19 vaccines contributed significantly toward the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic running a comparatively mild course in Germany.
The development of highly effective vaccines against COVID-19 and the large-scale vaccination campaign above all helped prevent severe courses of illness and protect highly vulnerable groups. However, no vaccine is free of side effects. In very rare cases, it is possible for such serious vaccination side effects and/or complications to occur that individuals suffer long-term health impairments. Against this backdrop, the Federal Ministry of Health provides answers to the most important questions concerning COVID-19 vaccination, side effects of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine injury law.
Who is recommended a vaccination?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, infection trends have changed greatly. At this point in time, it can be assumed that SARS-CoV-2 is transitioning to an endemic wave-like event. This means that while the virus will continue to circulate within the population, the milder disease progressions of Omicron virus variants and the high immunity within the population on account of vaccination and past infection have resulted in there now being significantly fewer instances of severe illness.
In contrast with earlier virus variants, infections with the Omicron variant also appear to result in fewer cases of long COVID. Furthermore, various studies indicate that full vaccination may provide a certain level of protection against long COVID (Useful information for patients and interested parties).
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has entered its COVID-19 vaccination recommendations in the immunisation schedule for recommended standard vaccinations. Healthy people aged between 18 and 59 years (including pregnant people) are recommended a basic immunisation as well as a booster to build up a basic immunity. It is important that the immune system is exposed to pathogen components (through vaccination) or the pathogen itself (through infection) three times. At least two such exposures should occur through vaccination.
Groups of people who are at increased risk are recommended an additional booster vaccination once a year. The vaccination should be administered with a variant-adapted vaccine and generally at least 12 months after the previous vaccination or infection. Preferably vaccinations should be administered in autumn, so that in case of growing infection rates, vulnerable people still have the best-possible protection in autumn and winter.
This applies to:
- All people aged 60 or over
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- Anyone over the age of 6 months with an underlying condition
- People of all ages with an increased infection risk on account of their occupation in medical or long-term care
- Family members and close contacts of people for whom the COVID-19 vaccination is unlikely to produce a protective immune response
For people with an immune deficiency and a relevant limited immune response, additional vaccine doses in shorter intervals may be beneficial. Whether additional vaccine doses are needed is determined by the attending physician.
Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination?
Since 7 April 2023, entitlement to COVID-19 vaccinations for people with statutory health insurance is subject to the provisions of the vaccination guideline (German) passed by the Joint Federal Committee of Physicians and Health Insurance Funds (G-BA) on the basis of the Standing Committee on Vaccination’s recommendation. According to the COVID-19 Prevention Ordinance, aside from the provisions of the vaccination guideline, those insured are entitled to COVID-19 vaccinations should a doctor deem it medically necessary.
Furthermore, health insurance funds can make provisions for additional protective vaccinations within their by-laws.
People with private health insurance are subject to their individual contractual terms.
Where can you get vaccinated?
A large proportion of COVID-19 vaccinations are carried out by local GPs, which includes vaccinations administered by doctors at nursing care facilities. Company doctors and local pharmacies can also administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for healthy children and adolescents?
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) currently recommends that babies, (young) children and adolescents without underlying conditions do not require a basic immunisation or booster against COVID-19 on account of the mostly mild courses of disease with a very low likelihood of needing hospitalisation.
Children and adolescents with underlying conditions are to continue to receive vaccinations according to the recommendations.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for healthy children and adolescents?
Like other healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 59, it is recommended that pregnant people have a basic immunity. From the second trimester, unvaccinated pregnant people are recommended a basic immunisation plus a booster to build up a basic immunity. For the basic immunity, it is important that the immune system is exposed to pathogen components (through vaccination) or the pathogen itself (through infection) three times. At least two of these exposures should have occurred through vaccination.
In addition to the basic immunisation, pregnant people with an existing underlying illness are recommended a booster from the second trimester.
What vaccines are administered in Germany?
The following COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in Germany (see also Short overview of authorised COVID-19 vaccine products (German), accessible via the Paul Ehrlich Institute website):
- Comirnaty by BioNTech/Pfizer [including vaccines adapted to Omicron variants (monovalent: Comirnaty XBB.1.5; bivalent: Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.1 and Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4-5)]
- Spikevax by Moderna [bivalent vaccines adapted to Omicron variants (Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1 and Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.4-5)]
- Jcovden (old name: COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen) by Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson)
- Nuvaxovid by Novavax
- COVID-19 Vaccine (inactivated, adjuvanted) by Valneva
- VidPrevtyn Beta by Sanofi Pasteur
Information regarding use can be found in the vaccine’s information texts (expert information and instructions for use), which can be accessed via the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) website. Details describing which vaccine should preferentially be administered to each age group can be found in the STIKO’s vaccination recommendations (see Table C of STIKO’s recommendations on COVID-19 vaccination).
How will the vaccine be procured in the future?
No further central procurement of COVID-19 vaccines by the Federal Government is planned. After distribution or consumption of the Federal Government’s respective stocks, the pharmaceutical manufacturers will be able to introduce their COVID-19 vaccines into the distribution chains themselves. As with other medicinal products and vaccines, ordering will then be carried out by the doctor from pharmaceutical wholesalers through pharmacies. COVID-19 vaccines brought to market by the pharmaceutical companies themselves are subject to the legal provisions that apply to the distribution of medicinal products in Germany.
Are digital vaccination certificates still issued upon request?
The entitlement to be issued COVID vaccination certificates is stipulated in section 22a (5) of the Protection against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz – IfSG). Obliged to provide a certificate is the person authorised to administer the vaccine or, where issued retroactively, any doctor or pharmacist. According to section 22a (5) sentence 2 of the IfSG, however, an obligation to retroactively issue a certificate exists only if the doctor or pharmacist is presented with vaccination documentation for an immunisation against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and that doctor or pharmacist has declared themselves willing to carry this out while taking appropriate steps to avoid issuing an inaccurate COVID-19 vaccination certificate, specifically with regard to the identity of the person vaccinated and the authenticity of the vaccination documentation. Meanwhile, however, there are no requirements to present a vaccination certificate when travelling within Germany or upon entry. In the other EU member states and in the large majority of third countries, SARS-CoV-2-related entry restrictions no longer apply.
Issue of COVID-19 vaccination certificates is only possible until the end of 2023.
Are digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates still needed for specific journeys abroad?
Depending on the destination country, when entering the country some COVID-19 measures may still be in place, which could change at short notice. It is therefore recommended to find out about the local provisions in place at your destination before travelling [e.g. travel and safety advisories by the Federal Foreign Office (German)].
Side effects and vaccine injury law
Find all the information you need about coronavirus vaccination at the infektionsschutz.de website of the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA).
COVID-19 vaccination from a medical perspective
The RKI provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning, for instance, vaccination recommendations, vaccine efficacy and safety as well as vaccination implementation.
Marketing authorisation and testing of vaccines
The PEI provides answers to questions on the development and marketing authorisation of vaccines.