Millions of Germans no longer considered ‘fully vaccinated’ on public transport

People who've had the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine could find themselves on the wrong side of '3G' rules this week as public transport operators say they will no longer be counted as fully vaccinated.

ICE train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof
Passengers enter an ICE train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test is needed to travel on trains in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

The change comes on the back of changes to the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ under German law.

Guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute and Ministry of Health now states that people who’ve had a shot of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) now require a second shot of either J&J an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech in order to be considered fully vaccinated. 

Previously, J&J had been the only Covid vaccine to require just one dose – rather than two – for full vaccination protection. 

READ ALSO: Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Speaking to The Local on Tuesday, a spokesperson for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn confirmed that people who’ve had just one shot of J&J would need a negative test in order to travel on their trains in future.

“Unless passengers have been vaccinated or have recovered, they must carry proof of a negative Covid test,” the spokesperson said.

The definition of ‘vaccinated’ is based on guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which currently states that two shots are needed for full inoculation with J&J, the spokesperson confirmed.

“We are still in constant contact with the federal and state ministries and authorities regarding Covid,” they said. “The authorities are constantly adapting the pandemic response to the current situation – also in the area of mobility. We follow and implement these regulations.”

Since November 24th, the so-called ‘3G’ rule has applied on public transport, meaning customers should carry proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test in order to travel. 

If customers don’t have at least one of these documents with them, they are generally asked to leave the train at the next station and can also be hit with fines. 

READ ALSO: Germany brings in nationwide ‘3G’ rules on public transport

‘A scandal’ 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has faced harsh criticism for the sudden rule-change, which was described by German newspaper Welt as a “scandal”. 

“By shifting the information online, hundreds of thousands of people were downgraded overnight to unvaccinated without their knowledge and de facto excluded from public life until they received their (second) vaccination,” wrote Welt commentator Benjamin Stibi. 

Question marks remain about how quickly the new rules will be implemented by the states in other areas of public life where access is restricted to people who are fully vaccinated or recovered.

This includes the majority of indoor public spaces, such as non-essential shops, cinemas and gyms. 

Meanwhile, in hospitality businesses like bars, cafes and restaurants, fully vaccinated people require a negative test or a booster jab for entry. 

This means that those who have had a second jab after Johnson & Johnson – a dose that was previously considered a booster – could now require a negative test to eat out or meet friends for drinks.

READ ALSO: How Germany’s 2G-plus Covid rules have left millions of people confused

The rule change is also likely to have an impact on people who work on-site, as a ‘3G’ rule (vaccination, recovery or test) applies in the workplace.

It could also impact people travelling into Germany with one dose of J&J who may no longer be seen as fully vaccinated. The Local has contacted the Health Ministry for clarification on this point and we’ll updated you when we receive an answer.

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany since the start of the pandemic.

The country is expecting a delivery of a further 18 million doses this year. 

Member comments

  1. I am confused about this: I received J&J in April then a booster in December and am not eligible for another booster until March. Also, I got COVID in January and have a recovery certificate. Does anyone know if I will be considered ok for 2g+ until March (aka I won’t need a negative test)? Thanks!

    1. You still may have a hard time explaining it to the inspector in a restaurant.
      But you are technically and legally boosted after your second vaccination. This is as per the latest change that is just coming in.

      Your booster status will go away again in February (90 days after the second shot), and you will have to get a third vaccination in order to retain it.

  2. I see some good news coming in for people vaccinated with J&J.

    I got J&J in June last year and the second vaccination on 2nd Jan. Up until yesterday, the second vaccination was just the `second vaccination` and was not considered a booster. So it only made you fully vaccinated and not boosted.
    So until yesterday I wouldn’t be considered 2G plus and would require a negative test for entry in a restaurant or bar.

    But today, the rules have changed. If you had your `second vaccination more than 14days ago and less than 90 days ago`, you will be on equal footing with a classical 3/3 series.

    But this privilege will go away after 90 days of the second vaccination, forcing to get a third jab to be considered boosted again.

    Still very complicated, but comes as a relief I would say.

    So yeah- Long story short . Even for J&J , if you got your second vaccination 14 days back, you will be considered boosted.

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German politicians row over tougher mask rules for autumn

Summer is not yet in full swing yet - but German politicians are already caught in a row over what Covid regulations will be tightened when autumn arrives.

German politicians row over tougher mask rules for autumn

It emerged earlier this week that Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats (SPD), is considering how to adapt the Covid measures in autumn, with a view to making it possible to reintroduce compulsory indoor mask-wearing.

That would mean masks could once again be mandatory in places like shops and restaurants when not sitting at a table.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

But the SPD’s coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), are already digging their heels in. 

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the FDP, slammed Lauterbach’s move to talk about changing the rules before a proper assessment of the situation. 

“I am in favour of following the law,” Buschmann told the Funke-Zeitung. “That is what an evaluation provides for.” 

The results of the evaluation should “absolutely” be taken into account “before we hastily commit to individual measures”, the FDP politician said.

Under the Infection Protection Act, ‘basic protection’ measures apply, with mask-wearing mandatory only in places like public transport, on flights to and from Germany, in hospitals, medical practices, and care facilities.

The law expires on September 23rd this year. Lauterbach told ZDF on Wednesday that his ministry was already planning for possible Covid outbreaks in autumn, and he said it was “absolutely necessary” to consider making masks mandatory indoors again.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

FDP deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki said tougher Covid restrictions in autumn should only be possible under strict conditions – and that scientific evidence had to show they were needed.

“There will not be another autumn and winter in which fundamental rights are restricted because of a haze of data fog,” the Bundestag vice president told DPA.

He said the FDP’s Covid policy, which involved pushing for Covid restrictions to be dropped earlier than coalition partners the SPD and Greens, was working out. 

“At present, it can be seen that the current course, which the FDP has pushed through under fierce hostility, has not led to the predicted collapse of the health system,” he said. 

Kubicki added that “a number of mistakes” had been made in Germany’s coronavirus policy in past two years. He said school closures, “inhumane” isolation of residents in old people’s homes, and the travel restrictions, that meant people in Germany could only travel a maximum of 15km from their home at one point, were some of the errors. 

Teachers hope for masks in schools

However, some German teachers take a different view.

The President of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, recently advocated for mandatory masks in schools to be imposed again.

“Politicians are once again not doing their homework on the subject of pandemics and schools,” he told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

He said masks could be “a decisive factor” in keeping schools open in the event of a Covid autumn wave, and that the government needs to amend the Infection Protection Act.

The chairperson of the Education and Science Union, Maike Finnern, has a similar view.

“A good testing strategy and the wearing of masks in the buildings can also play a decisive role in the future,” Finnern said. “To this end, the legal basis must now be created, for example, for mandatory masks, so that measures can take effect quickly and with legal certainty if necessary,”.