What’s going on?
Covid infection rates are on the rise in Germany. As of September 15th, the 7-day incidence (the number of new infections per 100,000 people in seven days) was at 9. Exact infection figures are hard to obtain, however, given the low number of tests currently being carried out.
What we do know is that there are two main variants currently circulating. Firstly, there is Eris (EG.5), a descendant of the Omicron variant.
Secondly, there is the new Pirola variant (BA.2.86), which is more mutated from the Omicron variant, and has already appeared in various countries and was first detected in Germany in mid-September.
Which vaccinations are now on offer?
The latest available vaccine produced by Pfizer/Biontech has been adapted to the Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.5, which is very similar to the new Eris variant EG.5.
As of Monday, the vaccine for people aged twelve and above will first be available in doctors’ practices.
According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, the adapted vaccine for young children is expected to be delivered starting September 25th, and the vaccine for children between the ages of five and eleven will be available from October 2nd.
When is it advisable to get vaccinated?
According to the Standing Vaccination Committee (Stiko), those aged 60 and above, residents in care facilities, people with underlying health conditions, healthcare workers, and relatives of high-risk patients are recommended to get the new vaccination. Typically, twelve months should have elapsed since the last vaccination or infection.
Where can I get vaccinated?
The distribution of Covid vaccinations moved from pandemic crisis mode to regular care in medical practices about six months ago, which means that now, they are primarily available through your general practitioner or Family doctor.
The entitlement to free vaccinations is based on Stiko recommendations and, in federal states where compensation for Covid vaccination has not yet been regulated, patients will initially receive a private bill for their booster jabs.
They can then submit this bill to their health insurer for reimbursement. The amount that patients may need to pay upfront could be around €35.
Could there be another big wave of infections in autumn and winter?
It’s difficult to say whether there will be more waves of infections in the coming months, as it depends on whether a variant emerges that can evade the immune system.
The good news is that experts still see a very broad baseline immunity from vaccinations and infections in Germany, though people can still get infected. It is expected, though, that generally healthy people will not become as severely ill, requiring hospitalisation or intensive care.
However, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also recently emphasised, “Covid-19 is not a common cold.” Infections carry the risk of Long Covid. Healthcare professionals anticipate stress in the healthcare system due to staff shortages and seasonal waves of other pathogens.”
Should we start wearing masks again?
While mask-wearing is not mandatory and is unlikely to be put in place again in public areas, wearing a FFP2 mask can be a sensible protective measure for people with weaker immune systems. However, experts do believe that a renewed mask mandate in hospitals and care facilities could be implemented if case numbers rise.
If you do get infected and want to protect yourself and others, it’s recommended to stay at home for three to five days, reduce contacts, cough or sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands regularly.
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