German authorities urge vaccination to beat Delta variant

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A poster calling on more hand washing instead of purchasing masks is seen at a pharmacy in Berlin, capital of Germany, March 3, 2020. Germany's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased to 188 on Tuesday from 150 a day earlier, according to Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)
A poster calling on more hand washing instead of purchasing masks is seen at a pharmacy in Berlin, capital of Germany, March 3, 2020. Germany's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased to 188 on Tuesday from 150 a day earlier, according to Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn expressed concern on Thursday at how the Delta variant of the coronavirus was spreading and urged people to protect themselves by getting fully vaccinated.

“It’s up to us whether Delta gets a chance,” Spahn said in Berlin. The German population could decide for itself whether the autumn would be a good one after a pleasant holiday.

Spahn was speaking after Germany’s official disease control body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported that current estimates suggested the Delta variant – first identified in India and seen as considerably more infectious – now made up more than half the cases in Germany.

Spahn called for efforts to keep the number of cases down. He noted that full vaccination was proving its efficacy against the variant.

He nevertheless said the government aimed to downgrade the status of Portugal and Britain, where the Delta variant spread earlier, from “virus variant” to “high incidence.”

RKI figures showed that the variant made up 37 per cent of cases in Germany in the week to June 20, more than double the rate the previous week.

The overall figures show a steady decline. Over the past 24 hours, 892 cases were recorded by health departments, down from 1,008 a week previously. There were 63 deaths, down from 93 a week previously.

Germany’s standing vaccination committee (Stiko) also adjusted its advice in line with the spread of the variant.

It advised anyone who had received an initial vaccine with AstraZeneca to receive their second dose with an MrNA vaccine, either made by Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, regardless of their age, Stiko wrote on Thursday.

It recommended a four-week interval between the shots for those adopting what they described as a heterogeneous vaccination regimen.

Meanwhile for those receiving two mRNA vaccines, they also approved a shorter interval between the first and second shots.

They said the recommendation applied subject to feedback.

The vaccination body’s experts said they had adjusted their advice to recommend a vector and an mRNA vaccine, as the immune response after the two different shots was “clearly superior” to the immune response after two doses of the AstraZeneca shot.

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