The country is one of the homes of the jointly developed BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. In December 2020, this vaccine was approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission. Germany began vaccinating its citizens and residents shortly after Christmas that year. Since then, other vaccines have been allowed for use in the country: Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen. Except for Janssen, all the other approved vaccines have to be administered in two separate doses over a period of several weeks, with a further waiting period afterwards until full immunity is reached.
The first few months of vaccinating were dominated by vaccine shortage and prioritization rules implemented by the German government, primarily based on recipients’ age, with vaccination of older age groups planned first. This, in turn, led to logistical, structural and legal challenges: building and running vaccination centers and locations, reaching older age groups or setting up means for the public to get appointments on their own, dealing with individual legislation in federal states. Vaccination in medical practices and by company doctors was allowed in the spring.
On June 7, Germany abolished prioritization by age and declared coronavirus vaccination open to all who were eligible, based on official recommendations by the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO). Earlier, those who were negatively tested for, recovered from, or fully vaccinated against the coronavirus were declared equal from a legal standpoint. This means, for example, that people able to provide proof of belonging to either of these three categories would potentially be exempt from travel or social restrictions. The law continues to provoke discussions, sometimes even arguments, among legal, ethics, and medical experts.
Some approached the issue from the viewpoint of health safety, regardless of whether a vaccine would lead to more freedom in daily life. For example, based on a survey, there was no overwhelming majority among respondents regarding opinions on feeling safe to travel after receiving the first dose of the vaccine. The same was true when asked if the decision to get vaccinated would be influenced by easier travel.
Since the beginning of the campaign, German politicians have been publicly repeating that vaccination will remain voluntary, while simultaneously stressing the importance of getting vaccinated to limit the spread of the virus. Earlier statements revolved around reaching herd immunity, but recently experts in Europe and the U.S. have begun to voice doubts that this will be at all possible due to the contagious nature of the Delta variant of COVID-19. With the emergence of the Omicron variant and its spread in Europe, the German government reviewed decisions and measures once again.