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Germany calls for 4th COVID-19 shot

March 29, 2022

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says the coronavirus situation in Europe is worse than people think and that people over 60 should get another booster shot.

A man receives a second booster shot at in The Hague, in the Netherlands
Karl Lauterbach says a fourth shot could boost people's immunity in the absence of vaccines that specifically protect against the omicron variant Image: ROBIN UTRECHT/picture alliance

Germany's health minister on Tuesday urged his EU counterparts to back a fourth COVID-19 vaccine jab — or second booster shot —  for people over the age of 60.

Citing data from Israel, Karl Lauterbach said there was an almost 80% reduction in omicron deaths in people over 60 when a fourth vaccination was administered four months after the initial booster.

"The situation in Europe, as far as the pandemic is concerned, is worse than people feel," Lauterbach said.

"We have very high case numbers — we have unfortunately also very high death rates," he said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU health ministers in Brussels.

Lauterbach's proposal for the European Commission to issue common advice on administering a fourth dose was backed by a majority of the bloc's ministers.

Israeli study shows benefits of 2nd booster

Earlier this month, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was not yet enough data to support a recommendation for a second booster shot. The EMA said it was hoping for more data to guide a review later in the spring.

Israeli researchers said on Sunday that a study on people aged 60 to 100 showed those who received a second booster, or fourth dose, of the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine had a 78% lower mortality rate from the disease than those who got only one.

German health minister Karl Lauterbach in Brussels
Lauterbach said an EU-wide booster strategy was urgentImage: Leon Kuegeler/photothek/picture alliance

Germany's vaccination commission in February recommended second booster shots for people in at-risk groups, including aged 70 and over. However, only 10% of those eligible for the fourth shot in Germany have received it.

Lauterbach said the age limit should be lowered and that the booster strategy was urgent because he did not expect a vaccine adapted for new variants to become available before the autumn.

"September could be the target month," he said.

lo/nm (Reuters, dpa, AFP)