Germany kicks off autumn COVID vaccine campaign targeting high-risk groups

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany on Monday launched its autumn vaccination campaign to prevent respiratory infection, promoting an updated COVID-19 booster shot only for the elderly or for people at high disease risks.

Germany’s public health body, the Robert Koch Institute, said that the country’s vaccine advisory panel of independent experts, known as STIKO, reiterated its recommendation that booster shots beyond a standard COVID vaccination course should only given to certain at-risk groups.

“People from 60 years of age and at-risk groups should get vaccinated, the better even if an influenza shot can go with that,” said health minister Karl Lauterbach, who is 60 and who got the new COVID shot himself on Monday.

With its choice to target only the elderly, at-risk or chronically ill people, residents of care homes, healthcare professionals and those in close contact with vulnerable people, Germany is broadly in line with other European countries, such as France, Italy or Britain.

Britain has prioritised those aged 75 years and over, residents in care homes and people who are immunosuppressed for the new shots.

That contrasts with a much wider approach in the United States where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week signed off on broad use of updated COVID-19 vaccines, covering ages 6 months and up.

EU regulators last month gave the green light for an updated COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, which targets the XBB.1.5 variant of Omicron. Moderna’s updated shot is also on track to win approval.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Andreas Rinke, Editing by Rachel More and Tomasz Janowski)

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