Current information on coronavirus vaccination

Here you can find answers to the most important questions on COVID-19 vaccination

Basic knowledge

Who can get vaccinated?

In Germany, anyone aged 5 years or older can, as a rule, get vaccinated against COVID-19. According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only very few people are actually unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As with any other immunisation, you should only get the COVID-19 vaccine after the doctor has thoroughly checked your medical history. Here it is important to raise any potential concerns or allergies with the doctor administering the vaccine. In any case, you should observe the current expert information and instructions for use. Since 17 December 2021, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign has also included 5 to 11-year-olds. BioNTech/Pfizer’s children’s vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds was approved for EU-use in late November 2021. The vaccine is administered in a smaller dose than for adults. In March 2022, the marketing authorisation for the Moderna vaccine was extended to children aged 6 years or over. Specifically, when 6 to 11-year-olds receive their basic immunisation, each dose only contains half the dosage of those aged 12 or over.

Where can you get vaccinated?

In Germany, sufficient vaccine doses are available for everyone. There is a country-wide, diverse range of vaccination services to ensure easy universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine. If you wish to get vaccinated, you can book an appointment at a doctor’s surgery, a vaccination centre or make use of one of the local, low-threshold vaccination services in each Federal Land. In addition, many businesses offer vaccinations. Since 8 February 2022, even pharmacies offer COVID-19 vaccinations – pharmacists with relevant training are authorised to administer vaccines. With the Fifth Ordinance Amending the Coronavirus Vaccination Ordinance of 23 May 2022, dentists with relevant training may also perform COVID-19 vaccinations within their practices.

Basic immunisation

How many vaccinations are required to be considered “fully vaccinated”?

As of 19 March 2022, the Protection against Infection Act (section 22a) (in German) stipulates the conditions that need to be met to count as fully vaccinated.

As of 1 October 2022, you are fully vaccinated:

  • after three vaccine doses (receiving the last vaccine dose at least three months after the second vaccine dose),
  • after two vaccine doses:
    • AND a positive antibody test preceding the first vaccine dose
    • OR a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection verified by a PCR test before receiving the second vaccine dose
    • OR a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection verified by a PCR test after receiving the second vaccine dose; at least 28 days must have passed since testing.

Boosters

Who is recommended a first booster?

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends a first booster for anyone aged 12 or over who has received a basic immunisation. The STIKO has adapted its recommendations concerning the vaccination interval and recommends that in future immunocompetent people ensure they receive their first booster no less than 6 months after completing their basic immunisation. In specific justified cases, this interval can be shortened to 4 months following medical consultation. Furthermore, after completing the basic immunisation, children between the ages of 5 and 11 with pre-existing conditions should wait at least 6 months before receiving their first booster.

Which vaccines should be used in the first booster?

When receiving their first booster, children aged between 5 and 11 years are preferentially recommended Cominarty. Spikevax may also be used. For those aged 12 to 30, the STIKO exclusively recommends Cominarty for the initial booster. For those aged 30 or over, both currently available mRNA vaccines (Comirnaty and Spikevax) are equally suitable as a booster.

Who is recommended a second booster?

With its updated COVID-19 vaccination recommendation of 18 August 2022, the STIKO recommends a second booster for the following groups: 

  • People between the ages of 60 and 69
  • People aged 5 or older who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness as a consequence of a pre-existing condition

Analogous to the indication-based vaccination against influenza, pre-existing conditions also include the following:

  • Chronic diseases of the respiratory organs (including bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD)
  • Chronic cardiovascular, hepatic and renal disease
  • Diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases
  • Chronic neurological diseases
  • Congenital or acquired immunodeficiency (including patients with neoplastic diseases)
  • HIV infection

The primary goal of the broadened booster recommendation is to prevent severe illness and fatalities among groups that are particularly at risk.

With the second booster, just as with the first, an mRNA vaccine should generally be used. The STIKO does not recommend a second booster for immunocompetent people under the age of 60, since the latest data indicates this group does not receive noticeable benefit from the fourth vaccine dose.

When should the second booster (fourth vaccine dose) be administered?

The second booster should be administered no sooner than 6 months after the first booster. In specific justified cases, this interval can be shortened to 4 months.

Even following a SARS-CoV-2 infection, there should generally be an interval of six months before receiving a booster. If a SARS-CoV-2 infection occurred after the first booster, there should be an interval of six months between the infection and the second booster.

When would be a good time to get a “2nd booster” (fourth vaccine dose)?

On 1 September 2022, the European regulatory agency EMA issued a marketing authorisation for mRNA vaccines adapted to the BA.1 variant to booster persons > 12 years. These vaccines are bivalent, which means that they are targeted at two different virus strains: at the original coronavirus and at its BA.1 variant. Pursuant to the current STIKO recommendation of 18 August 2022, these vaccines can generally already be used.

The STIKO is currently examining in detail the latest data concerning the efficacy and safety of the existing and/or new mRNA vaccines, and mid-September 2022 the STIKO will announce its position on specific questions with respect to use.

At the same time, members of vulnerable groups should discuss with their doctor whether seasonal flu vaccination is indicated. The two vaccines can be given simultaneously, ideally into different arms. Additionally, it should be verified whether pneumococcal vaccination is indicated.

In the future, might more than two boosters even be required?

Among older people, it can indeed make sense to administer an additional (i.e. fifth) vaccine dose on account of immuno-senescence, if more than 6 months have passed since the second booster. Whether or not this is indicated should be determined by considering your state of health and level of risk, and only together with a doctor you trust.

More information on the booster can be found on our website zusammengegencorona.de.

Additional special requirements need to be observed when vaccinating people with immune deficiencies. In this case, we refer to the “STIKO recommendation on COVID-19 vaccination of people with immune deficiency (ID)” (table on page 15 and 16 in the document) (in German).

Children’s vaccination

Which children and adolescents are recommended to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for children and adolescents aged 5 years or older, age-specific requirements do exist, however. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends all healthy 5 to 11-year-olds be initially administered one vaccine dose. Among children aged 5 to 11, BioNTech/Pfizer’s children’s vaccine should be preferably used.

Children aged between 5 and 11, who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness on account of pre-existing conditions, are recommended a basic immunisation with two vaccine doses as well as a booster. Furthermore, a second booster should be given at least 6 months after the previous vaccine dose or SARS-CoV-2 infection (see “Who is recommended a second booster (fourth vaccine dose)?”)

In this age group, also the healthy children should receive two vaccine doses as part of their basic immunisation, if they are in close contact with people who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness and who cannot get vaccinated themselves or where there is reason to suspect that vaccination may not provide adequate protection (e.g. people who are undergoing immunosuppressive therapy). Furthermore, following medical consultation it is possible to receive a basic immunisation with two vaccine doses if, in the individual case, the children and parents have so requested.

Children and adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years are recommended COVID-19 vaccination with two vaccine doses using the Cominarty (BioNTech/Pfizer) mRNA vaccine. In addition, a booster should be given.

Moreover, an occupational indication exists for the vaccination of adolescents who are at increased risk of exposure due to their work or because they are in close contact with vulnerable groups.

Additional special requirements need to be observed when vaccinating people with immune deficiencies. Here we refer to the “STIKO’s recommendation on COVID-19 vaccination of people with immune deficiency (ID)” (table on page 15 and 16 in the document) (in German).

COVID-19 vaccination is a sensitive issue for many parents. That is why the local vaccination centres also offer various opportunities for consultation by doctors.

Where can children get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Sufficient vaccine doses are available to vaccinate all children in Germany. Parents who wish to get their children vaccinated can contact the paediatricians in private practice. In addition, vaccination centres and local vaccination campaigns are also available for parents and their children. Relevant information can be found on the local authorities’ information pages.

What potential side effects can the children’s vaccination have?

During the marketing authorisation study, many children reported temporary vaccination reactions lasting one or two days, particularly after the second vaccine dose.

These were often pain at the injection site, headaches and tiredness. A number of children had some reddening or swelling around the injection site. Moreover, some children had fever, diarrhoea, shivering as well as muscular and joint pain.

Since the vaccine roll-out, in extremely rare cases, anaphylactic reactions (immediate allergic reactions) have been reported. These occurred shortly after the vaccine was administered and required medical treatment. Similarly, after receiving the mRNA vaccine, in very rare cases myocarditis and pericarditis were observed among children and adolescents as well as adults.

Information on possible side effects can also be found in the vaccine’s information texts (expert information and instructions for use) or at the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) website.

Who is liable in case of harm to people’s health on account of children’s vaccination against COVID-19?

Liability also applies to children’s vaccination. Section 60 of the Second Act Amending the Protection Against Infection Act clarifies that a claim to damages – regulated uniformly at the federal level – exists with respect to any harm to people’s health that has occurred in connection with the vaccinations performed since 27 December 2020 on the basis of the Coronavirus Vaccination Ordinance. This claim exists irrespective of the Land authorities’ public recommendations.

Facility-based obligation to vaccinate

What do I need to know about the vaccine mandate in particular health and care facilities?

Staff employed, for instance, at hospitals, nursery homes, doctors’ surgeries and emergency services must present their employer before expiry of 15 March 2022 with proof of a completed vaccination, of recovery or with a medical certificate stating that they may not get vaccinated. Employers need to inform the competent public health office if such certificates are not submitted in a timely manner or if there is any doubt regarding their authenticity or accuracy. The public health office can prohibit employment at – or access to – facilities where an obligation to submit proof applies. As of 1 October 2022, as a rule a booster (i.e. the third vaccine dose) is required to be considered "fully vaccinated".

Everything you need to know on this topic can be found on our website zusammengegencorona.de and in our Handbook on preventive vaccination with regard to facilities’ internal activities (in German). (PDF, not accessible, 463 KB)

Vaccines

What vaccines are administered in Germany?

The following COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in Germany:

  • Comirnaty® by BioNTech/Pfizer
  • Spikevax® by Moderna
  • COVID-19 Janssen® vaccine (new name: Jcovden) by Johnson & Johnson
  • Nuvaxovid® by Novavax
  • COVID-19 Valneva® vaccine by Valneva

Which age groups are recommended a vaccine?

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends:

  • Comirnaty® for people aged 5 or over who are vaccine-eligible (for 5 to 11-year-olds: in a special pharmaceutical form with adjusted dosage)
  • Spikevax® for vaccine-eligible people aged 30 or over
  • COVID-19 Janssen® vaccine (new name: Jcovden) for vaccine-eligible people aged 60 or over
  • Nuvaxovid® for vaccine-eligible people aged 12 or over

The STIKO is currently examining the body of data on the Valneva® COVID-19 vaccine and will soon be making a corresponding statement.

Johnson & Johnson

What applies to people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson?

In the meantime, everyone in Germany who received a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose now requires a second dose to be considered fully vaccinated in line with section 22a of the Protection against Infection Act. Only every subsequent booster is then classed as a booster in Germany. To qualify as proof of booster vaccination in Germany, three vaccine doses are therefore also required with Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The booster is deemed valid immediately without a waiting period.

Here too, it should be noted that as of 1 October 2022 a booster (in other words, a 3rd vaccine dose) is required to be considered “fully vaccinated”, see the question “How many vaccinations are required to be considered 'fully vaccinated'?

How soon can you receive a booster (3rd vaccine dose) after receiving J&J?

A distinction should be drawn between the basic immunisation (in the meantime, two vaccine doses are required in Germany) and the booster. A booster can be administered after two doses of J&J vaccine or one dose of J&J vaccine and another dose of an mRNA vaccine, if the basic immunisation was completed at least 3 months beforehand.

Can the digital J&J vaccination certificate still be used outside the EU?

As a rule, digital certificates can be used. Please check which rules apply in your destination country. However, the guidelines on displaying the J&J vaccine in combination with other vaccines on vaccination certificates were amended by the EU effective 1 February. Depending on whether other EU countries have already implemented the amendments in their verification apps, over a short transition period it could mean that vaccination certificates need to be presented individually. In addition, it is possible that individual EU countries already require proof of a booster.

To avoid uncertainty, please therefore inform yourself on the specific regulations that apply in the EU countries before setting off, e.g. at https://reopen.europa.eu/en

Novavax

This vaccine is available for use in healthcare and can be ordered by the vaccinating locations.

COVID certificates (proof of recovery and vaccination)

How long are certificates of recovery valid within Germany?

They are valid for 90 days (section 22a (2) number 2 of the IfSG) in Germany. This period of time is in alignment with EU Regulation 2021/953 concerning digital COVID certificates, according to which certificates of recovery are valid at the earliest 11 days and a maximum of 180 days after the first positive test result.

Does the EU’s latest recommendation of 25 January 2022 affect this at all?

No. The amended, legally non-binding EU Council Recommendation 2020/1475 cites the previously mentioned provision on digital COVID vaccination certificates in EU Regulation 2021/953 and also refers in declaratory form to a maximum of 180 days. Since the latest medical findings indicate a maximum validity period of 90 days, the Federal Government has and will continue to advocate for a correspondingly shorter validity period in the EU.

What applies to people entering Germany who have recovered from COVID-19?

In the context of entry into Germany, the recovery certificate is also valid for a period of 90 days, since the EU has stipulated certificates be recognised as valid for a maximum period of 180 days. This means that the “recovered” status can also be shortened at national level. People entering the country whose most recent positive PCR test result is over 90 days old are therefore considered as unvaccinated. The Federal Government has informed the EU Commission and the other member states of this.

How long is proof of vaccination valid within Germany?

Until 30 September 2022, vaccination certificates issued after receiving the second vaccine dose are considered proof of a “fully vaccinated” status. As of 1 October 2022, as a rule a booster (3rd vaccine dose) is required to be considered “fully vaccinated”, see question “How many vaccine doses are required to be considered “fully vaccinated”?”.

Has the EU limited the validity period of vaccination certificates?

Yes, with its EU Regulation 2021/2288 of 21 December 2021. With its so-called Delegated Act on the EU’s digital vaccination certificate, the EU Commission has set an acceptance period of 270 days following completion of the basic immunisation. However, this period only applies for cross-border travel. The EU’s digital vaccination certificate regains validity as soon as a booster is registered, irrespective of the interval to the basic immunisation. These EU provisions do not apply for other vaccination certificates such as the yellow WHO vaccination booklet or for domestic use.

As of what date does the EU’s limitation to 270 days apply when travelling?

The Commission’s Delegated Act applies effective 1 February 2022. An EU-issued digital vaccination certificate, where the latest vaccine dose to complete a basic immunisation was administered over 270 days ago, is no longer valid. Example: EU digital vaccination certificates that indicate that the basic immunisation’s last vaccine dose was administered 6 May 2021 or later will successively expire over the coming weeks and months if no booster has been administered since 1 February 2022. The EU Commission had combined its relevant decision of 21 December 2021 with a call to member states to ensure the availability and access to additional vaccine doses. The Federal Government complied with this request and has endeavoured for considerable time to further increase the number of people who have received boosters.

Are there any exemptions from this 270-day limit?

According to Regulation (EU) 2021/953, which was last amended by the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/503, it was determined that minors under the age of 18 do not require a booster after 270 days have passed since completing their first vaccination series (two vaccine doses). Their vaccination certificates are therefore valid indefinitely.

In addition, the member states should specifically consider the people living in their border regions who may often need to cross borders. Until further notice, the Federal Government will therefore not apply the 270-day period to this group when crossing borders. This includes both cross-border commuters and border crossers. Cross-border commuters and border crossers are recommended to carry with them the relevant documents.

What does the EU’s time limitation mean for holidaymakers?

Holidaymakers with an EU digital vaccination certificate are subject to the EU’s 270-day time limitation. Using the date of their second vaccine dose, they should check whether their EU digital vaccination certificate is still valid when crossing the border or whether they fall under any of the exemptions. To better protect against COVID-19, the Federal Government recommends getting a third vaccine dose at the earliest possible date and has accordingly secured the availability of and access to sufficient vaccine doses.

What happens in case of an expired EU Digital Vaccination Certificate?

The EU’s decision to limit the period of validity does not eradicate freedom of movement within the EU as a fundamental freedom. This means that holidaymakers are therefore not prevented from entering Germany. However, they do require a valid test result or proof of recovery within the meaning of the German Ordinance on Coronavirus Entry Regulations or a different proof of vaccination, e.g. the yellow WHO vaccination booklet. Quarantine regulations with respect to high-risk areas or areas of variants of concern do not currently need to be observed since no countries are classed as risk areas at this point in time.

Vaccination at pharmacies

Besides doctors’ surgeries, company doctors, vaccination centres and other service providers, pharmacies are also actively supporting the vaccination campaign in Germany. Find out what you need to know about booking and getting a COVID-19 vaccination at zusammengegencorona.de.

Side effects

When do the known side effects occur?

Typical symptoms (known as vaccine reactions) following a vaccination include reddening, swelling and pain at the injection site, but also more general reactions such as fever, headache, aching limbs and malaise are possible. These reactions are a desired effect, showing that the immune system is responding to the vaccine; they usually resolve completely after a few days.

Details concerning the type and frequency of these effects can be found in the product information (expert information and instructions for use) of each vaccine (can also be found on the PEI website).

If you suspect you may have potential side effects, you should consult a doctor. You can also report suspected side effects to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) at www.nebenwirkungen.bund.de. It is extremely rare for serious adverse drug reactions (ADR) to occur after vaccination. According to section 6 (1) of the Infection Protection Act (IfSG), if any damage to health exceeding the extent of a normal vaccine reaction is suspected, this needs to be reported on a named-patient basis.

What possible side effects are there when vaccinating children?

>> see “Children's vaccination”

Liability

Who is liable in case of harm to people’s health due to the vaccine?

The Protection against Infection Act clarifies that a claim to damages – regulated uniformly at the federal level – exists with respect to any harm to people’s health that has occurred in connection with the vaccinations performed since 27 December 2020 on the basis of the Ordinance on Coronavirus Entry Regulations. This claim exists irrespective of the Land authorities’ official recommendations.

Who is liable in case of harm to people’s health on account of the children’s vaccine against COVID-19?

>> see "Children’s vaccination"

Donations

How many vaccine doses is Germany donating?

Germany has committed to support COVAX, the global vaccination initiative. Whenever vaccine doses are not required for the national campaign, they are offered to the COVAX initiative. In 2021, around 95 million vaccine doses were transferred to COVAX. In addition, the Federal Government bilaterally donated approximately 7.7 million doses to 6 different countries. This means over 100 million doses were donated in total.

A further 75 million vaccine doses are to be donated in 2022.

The total number of vaccine doses transferred to COVAX in 2021 listed by vaccine manufacturer:

  • BioNTech: 10.3m doses
  • Moderna: 32m doses
  • Johnson & Johnson: 26.6m doses
  • AstraZeneca: 26.5m doses

An overview of the recipient countries can be found on the Federal Foreign Office’s website, which is leading these efforts.

Last change: 19. October 2022
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