The pandemic is over, but since October the number of infections has been rising again. Seven-day incidence rate in Germany according to TagesschauCurrently 28.1 per 100,000 inhabitants (as of November 14, 2023). Since only a few people are being tested right now, the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

Stiko does not recommend Corona boosters to everyone

New vaccines from Biontech, Moderna and Novavax have been approved in the EU within weeks and are effective against the currently circulating Omicron XBB.1.5 and EG.5 (Eris) sublines. Many people want to update their vaccinations so they can protect themselves against new corona variants in the fall and winter.

However, booster vaccination is not recommended for everyone. The Permanent Vaccination Commission (Stiko) has its own Corona vaccination recommendations in September 2023 adjusted. Accordingly, healthy adults who have had at least three exposures to SARS-CoV-2 antigen through vaccination and/or infection and therefore have baseline immunity do not require booster vaccination. You can decide whether vaccination protection is sufficient during online vaccination verification from the Federal Center for Health Education.

The booster is only recommended for people at increased risk of severe Covid-19. These include people over 60 years of age and people with underlying health conditions. This recommendation is followed by doctors and pharmacists who administer vaccinations.

But even for these groups of people, getting a booster shot doesn’t seem to be easy. Many readers tell us they sometimes have to wait weeks for a vaccine appointment, or that their family doctor no longer gives coronavirus vaccinations. Why is this?

Sufficient quantity of vaccine available

One thing is for sure: this is not due to the availability of a vaccine. Biontech and Novavax together delivered about 25 million doses of the vaccine adapted to the XBB 1.5 variant between September and November 2023, according to the Federal Ministry of Health.

Unlike at the start of the pandemic, Germany has enough vaccines. Both the German Association of General Practitioners and the German Association of Pharmacists confirm this upon request. The problem is rather organizational.

Problem with vaccine doses

GP practices are still the central point of contact when it comes to vaccinations, explains Prof Dr. Nicola Bülinger-Göpfarth, Federal Chairman of the Association of General Practitioners, at the request of our editors. However, various factors made this task even more difficult. “The fact that there are still not enough individual doses makes organizing appointments much more difficult,” says Professor Bülinger-Gepfarth. The approximately 1,400 pharmacies across the country that currently offer Covid-19 vaccinations also face this problem, as Christian Splett, a spokesman for the German Pharmacists Association, explains.

A vial of corona vaccine contains up to six doses of vaccine. Once opened, the vaccine can be stored for six hours. Anything that cannot be grafted during this time must be thrown away. “Spontaneous vaccination is only possible to a limited extent,” says Professor Bülinger-Gepfarth.

In order to waste as little vaccine as possible, doctors and pharmacies often set specific vaccination dates on which those who wish can get vaccinated. This may result in longer wait times. Many readers have told us that, as working people, they sometimes find it difficult to get vaccine appointments during business hours.

This problem will likely be resolved once coronavirus vaccines become available in single doses. According to “German pharmaceutical newspaper“In the future, we will offer our vaccines in single-dose containers. However, it is not yet clear when they will become available.

Big Effort to Document Covid-19 Vaccination

Besides this practical problem with vaccination doses, documenting medical practice is also a major obstacle, says Professor Bulinger-Gepfarth. For Covid-19 shots, the rate is still much higher than for other shots. In addition to the current shortage of young family doctors, practicing staff and ongoing digitalization, this is affecting the already overstretched time budget of many doctors. “We barely have enough time to care for patients. How do we cope with all this extra office work?”

From February 2022, pharmacies are also allowed to administer corona vaccinations. However, pharmacies cannot simply fill the gap that opens up in GP practices. “There must be a pharmacist who can required qualifications […] to be able to vaccinate,” says Christian Splett.

According to the chairman of the association of general practitioners, politicians have so far failed to provide practices with suitable framework conditions to be able to smoothly integrate Covid-19 vaccination into practice procedures. This is another possible reason why some family doctors no longer offer corona vaccinations. “Policymakers must urgently take countermeasures if they want to ensure low-threshold care through GP practices in the future,” says Professor Bulinger-Gepfarth.

Where can I get vaccinated?

But anyone who wants to protect themselves from corona now can’t wait for conditions to improve. If your family doctor does not give the corona booster vaccination, ask him or her colleague nearby who will offer the vaccination. Many private and specialized practices, as well as company doctors, also provide corona vaccinations.

ABOUT Consumer portal You can also look for pharmacies in your area that offer Covid-19 booster vaccinations.

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