The most important questions and answers about the coronavirus vaccination

The picture shows hands in plastic gloves sticking a plaster on an upper arm.

Those who get vaccinated against the coronavirus are protecting themselves and others: their family, friends and colleagues. 

Foto: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Information on the coronavirus vaccination

Why is it important to get vaccinated against the coronavirus?

The main reason to get vaccinated against the coronavirus is to protect yourself from a severe or deadly infection. In addition, each coronavirus vaccination helps contain the spread of the virus, so everyone who gets vaccinated is also protecting their own family, friends and the community at large.

How effective is the vaccination?

According to the current state of knowledge, the mRNA vaccines Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) are approximately 95 percent effective. This means that those who are fully vaccinated are about 95 percent less likely to catch COVID-19 than those who are not vaccinated.

According to current findings, the vector-based vaccine Vaxzervia produced by AstraZeneca is up to 80 percent effective when the recommended interval of 12 weeks between the two vaccinations is adhered to, while the vaccine Janssen by Janssen-Cilag International, which is also vector-based, is approximately 65 percent effective in all age groups after the recommended single vaccination dose.

So even though the vaccines offer a good level of effectiveness according to what is known to date, it is still possible to catch COVID-19 in spite of being vaccinated since vaccination does not offer 100% protection. However, studies indicate that those who have been vaccinated usually only have mild symptoms if they do fall ill, and often they remain completely asymptomatic.

For further information on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination, see the RKI website.

What influence do the virus variants have on the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines?

It can currently be assumed that the available vaccines are also effective against infection with the known virus variants, especially the so-called Delta variant that is currently widespread in Germany. 

The following basic principle therefore applies: in order to induce a powerful immune response, a full vaccination is required, i.e. two doses of vaccine at the recommended interval (3-6 weeks in the case of Comirnaty by BioNTech/Pfizer, 4-6 weeks in the case of COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, 9-12 weeks in the case of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, from 4 weeks for the recommended cross vaccination with the AstraZeneca/mRNA vaccine).

Is vaccination compulsory?

No. Vaccination against the coronavirus is voluntary.

What about children and young people over the age of twelve?

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends that children and adolescents from the age of twelve should be vaccinated. 

The federal states are offering vaccinations for 12 to 17-year-olds. They can be vaccinated at vaccination centres, by their local GP or paediatrician or by in-house doctors as relatives of employees. This requires a medical consultation, as well as the consent of the parents or guardians in some cases.

The vaccines produced by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna are approved by the European Commission for children and adolescents aged twelve years and older. Sufficient vaccine doses are available to be able to offer a vaccination immediately to all of the approx. 4.5 million 12 to 17-year-olds in Germany.

Will my child suffer any disadvantages if they are not vaccinated? 

No, vaccination is not compulsory. Safe schooling is guaranteed for everybody regardless of vaccination, for example as a result of testing. The same applies to holiday trips and other activities where special access rules apply.

How many people have been vaccinated to date?

Graphic with caption: This is how the vaccines are used. Details in the picture description. (Weitere Beschreibung unterhalb des Bildes ausklappbar als "ausführliche Beschreibung")

Four vaccines are currently approved – here is a summary.

Barrierefreie Beschreibung anzeigen

Foto: Federal Government

Further up-to-date figures on vaccinations are published by the Federal Ministry of Health on its  vaccination dashboard

Where are vaccinations currently available?

At doctors’ surgeries and vaccination centres – in-house doctors in companies have also been administering vaccinations for many weeks. Appointments for coronavirus vaccinations can be arranged individually with doctors’ surgeries – by telephone, for instance. There is no central invitation.

Many federal states, cities and districts now offer vaccinations without an appointment – at vaccination centres or in some cases at special venues such as football stadiums. For up-to-date details of local arrangements, see the information page of your federal state government.

Where can I get a vaccination appointment? 

The federal states are responsible for organising vaccinations and allocating appointments. Information on whether and how to register for a vaccination in your federal state can be found at  www.116117.de.

Appointments for coronavirus vaccinations at doctors’ surgeries can be arranged individually. There is no central invitation.

What happens if I am sick on the day of my vaccination appointment?

Vaccination should be postponed for those suffering acute, severe, febrile illness. Mild illness without fever is not usually a reason to postpone the vaccination.

If you have an appointment at a doctor’s surgery and cannot keep it due to illness, please cancel it by contacting the surgery directly. Appointments are arranged by the surgeries themselves. If you have an appointment at the vaccination centre, you can reschedule it online via the booking platform www.116117.de. Please have your individual code ready for this purpose. You can also call the Coronavirus Vaccination Hotline on 116117. Remember: if your first appointment is postponed or cancelled, your second appointment may have to be postponed or cancelled, too.

Do the vaccination intervals have to be observed?

Currently, the so-called Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is highly prevalent in Germany. For this reason, it is particularly important to get the second vaccine dose on time.

The Standing Commission on Vaccination recommends the following vaccination intervals:

  • Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer): 3 to 6 weeks
  • Spikevax (Moderna): 4 to 6 weeks
  • Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca):  9 to 12 weeks
  • Cross vaccination (Vaxzevria/mRNA vaccine): from 4 weeks

How often does the vaccination have to be repeated?

Two vaccinations are required for the vaccines produced by BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the fourth to be approved in the EU, requires only one vaccination. 

Why is the second vaccination important?

Not until you have been vaccinated a second time do you have complete protection. The reason for this is immunological memory: after the administration of a second vaccine dose, the immune system “remembers” previous contact with the coronavirus and reacts accordingly by producing immune memory cells and forming antibodies.

Full vaccination is especially important for protection against the currently widespread Delta variant. After complete vaccination, vaccine protection against the Delta variant is almost as good as against the original coronavirus or the Alpha variant.

Who will be offered a booster vaccination?

From September 2021 onwards, a booster vaccination with an mRNA vaccine will be offered at care facilities, integration assistance facilities and other institutions with vulnerable groups – generally at least six months after completion of the first vaccination series.

Patients with immune weakness or immune suppression and those in need of care or the very elderly who live in their own home are to be offered a booster vaccination by their GPs or by mobile teams organised by the vaccination centres. Current study data shows that these groups particularly benefit from a booster vaccination. The aim here is to provide the best possible protection for vulnerable groups in autumn and winter, since they are at the greatest risk of waning protection.

All fully vaccinated citizens who have received the first dose of a vector vaccine (AstraZeneca or Johnson&Johnson) will also be offered an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine from September onwards. The booster vaccination can be administered at vaccination centres, at doctors’ surgeries or by in-house doctors in companies.

Nursing staff and medical personnel are also among those who will be able to receive a booster vaccination, and also anyone aged over 60. 

What is the recommendation for people who received AstraZeneca as their first vaccination?

Recent findings indicate that the immune response after cross vaccination (first vaccination with AstraZeneca, second vaccination with an mRNA vaccine) is significantly better than the immune response after two AstraZeneca vaccinations. For this reason, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends a modified vaccination schedule here: those who have received an AstraZeneca vaccine as their first dose should receive an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or BioNTech) as their second vaccine dose.

For detailed information on the AstraZeneca vaccination, see the Federal Ministry of Health website.

When can people who have recovered get vaccinated?

Those who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 usually develop some protection from re-infection. Here, the STIKO recommends a booster vaccination with one vaccine dose, usually six months after infection. However, vaccination is possible as early as four weeks after COVID-19 symptoms have passed: this applies if aggressive virus variants appear against which an earlier SARS-CoV-2 infection no longer offers sufficient protection, for example.

According to STIKO recommendations, those who have recovered from the illness can receive any approved COVID-19 vaccine. The doctor administering the vaccine will issue you with a certificate to confirm that you have been fully vaccinated. 

Why is one vaccine dose sufficient after a SARS-CoV-2 infection?

Due to the existing immunity after a previous infection, one dose is sufficient since this results in sufficiently high concentrations of antibodies being formed in the body which would not be further increased by a second vaccine dose. At the present time, it is not possible to say whether and when a second COVID-19 vaccination will be necessary at a later date.

In the case of those with an impaired immune function, a decision must be taken on a case-by-case basis whether one vaccine dose is sufficient or whether two vaccinations should be administered. Even if more than six months have passed since diagnosis, one vaccine dose is sufficient for complete basic immunisation.

Who pays for the vaccination?

Vaccination is free of charge to citizens, regardless of their insurance status. The costs of the vaccine are covered by the Federal Government. The federal states bear the costs of operating the vaccination centres together with the statutory and private health insurance companies.

Information on the approved vaccines

Which vaccines have been approved to date?

  • Four vaccines have been approved: on 21 December, the EU Commission approved the BioNTech vaccine; this was followed by the approval of the Moderna vaccine on 6 January. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved in the EU since 29 January. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has had EU approval since 11 March. 
  • These approvals are based on the relevant recommendations issued by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). For an overview of the current development status of the various vaccines, see the  EMA website.
  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 100 potential vaccines are currently undergoing clinical testing worldwide. Here you will find the  WHO list 

What are the differences between the four approved vaccines?  

The vaccines produced by BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines. These contain parts of the genetic information of the coronavirus in the form of messenger RNA (mRNA). Acting as a kind of blueprint, this stimulates muscle cells in the body to produce the spike protein that is typical of the coronavirus itself.

The immune system recognises the spike protein as extrinsic and forms natural defences – namely antibodies and immune cells. When the vaccinated person later comes into contact with the “real” coronavirus, the latter is recognised by their immune system. The antibodies formed then provide protection from severe disease. The mRNA from the vaccine does not stay in the body but is degraded shortly after vaccination.

The vaccines offered by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are vector vaccines. In this case, an attenuated virus that is harmless to humans serves as a means of transport (vector) for parts of the genetic information of the coronavirus. Here again, some body cells obtain a blueprint for producing the characteristic spike protein of the coronavirus and are able to replicate it.

The immune system recognises the spike protein as extrinsic and forms natural defences – namely antibodies and immune cells. When the vaccinated person later comes into contact with the coronavirus, the latter is recognised and intercepted by the immune system. Vector vaccines are already well-established and are used to provide protection against Ebola, for example.

Who will be vaccinated with which vaccine?

Four vaccines are approved in Germany. The two mRNA vaccines by BioNTech and Moderna are recommended for all those aged 12 years and over – i.e. not only for adults but also for children and adolescents aged between 12 and 17 ( Vaccination recommendation for children and adolescents). 

According to the STIKO’s recommendation, the AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson vaccines should be used primarily for those aged over 60. The reason for this is that very rare but severe side effects (cerebral vein thrombosis) have been observed in connection with these vaccines. According to the STIKO, younger people can receive both vaccines if they wish and have been fully informed by their doctor. The STIKO also recommends that those who have already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should generally receive an mRNA vaccine as their second dose (cross vaccination or heterologous vaccination). 

Digital certificate of vaccination

How can I prove that I have had the coronavirus vaccination?

The coronavirus vaccination is recorded in your vaccination certificate. If you do not have a vaccination certificate, you will receive a replacement. In addition, the  Corona-Warn-App and the CovPass App issued by the Robert Koch Institute offer the option to document vaccinations by means of a digital vaccination certificate. Those who have received their vaccination can conveniently save information about their coronavirus vaccination in digital form on their smartphone. See here for further information about the digital vaccination certificate.

Is the yellow analogue vaccination card still valid?

Yes. The digital vaccination certificate is only offered on a voluntary, supplementary basis. If vaccinated individuals do not have digital proof of vaccination, the familiar “yellow booklet” remains a valid means of proof.

Vaccine safety

How safe is the vaccination?

In Germany, a vaccine is only approved if it has successfully passed all three phases of the clinical trial programme. These national and international quality standards apply to the approval of a coronavirus vaccine just as they do to all other vaccines that are developed. After market approval, vaccine use is closely monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis so as to be able to record even very rare side effects. 

Even if vaccine development has been much faster on this occasion than it has been in the past, this does not mean that the approval standards were any less rigorous. The accelerated development of the vaccines is firstly due to the fact that large amounts of money have been invested, allowing studies to be carried out on a large scale without delay. Secondly, the regulatory authorities are currently monitoring and reviewing vaccine development as quickly as possible. This prioritisation allows the companies and laboratories conducting the research to save time and move more quickly from one trial phase to the next.  

Are side effects possible?

Side effects can never be ruled out. Even long-established vaccines have side effects. It is important to be fully familiar with these, since this is the only way to ensure sound decisions are made regarding who can safely receive the vaccine and who is more likely to be at risk from vaccination than to benefit from it. One key purpose of the testing and approval process is to be able to describe the side effects clearly. This also includes being able to determine which groups of people are subject to such effects and to what extent.

Even after approval, a newly introduced vaccine continues to undergo monitoring and research. Sometimes very rare side effects are not recorded until after approval. Very rare might mean one case in more than 10,000 vaccinated people, for example. For Germany, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) centrally records all side effects and vaccination responses – regardless of the manufacturer. By pooling national and international observations, it is possible to ensure that all vaccine risks are recorded – even when they are so rare that they are only revealed after very large numbers of people have been vaccinated. As the vaccination against COVID-19 is rolled out in Germany, the Paul Ehrlich Institute publishes safety reports at regular intervals on all suspected cases of adverse reactions or vaccination complications that are reported. You will find the safety reports here.

Who should not be vaccinated?

Due to the lack of experience, the STIKO does not currently generally recommend vaccination during pregnancy. In individual cases, pregnant women can be offered vaccination – after weighing up the benefits and risks and once they have been provided with detailed information. Anyone suffering from an acute illness including a temperature of over 38.5°C should not be vaccinated until they have recovered. However, a cold or slightly raised temperature (below 38.5°C) is not a reason to postpone vaccination. In case of hypersensitivity to a vaccine ingredient, the vaccination should not be administered: please inform the doctor administering the vaccination beforehand if you have any allergies. Also: children up to and including the age of 11 should not be vaccinated as no vaccine has been approved for this age group. Source: Information sheet on the COVID-19 vaccination/Robert Koch Institute

Further information:

For information on vaccination in your region and to make an appointment, go to www.116117.de.

The Federal Centre for Health Education has collated extensive information and also addresses common misconceptions.

The Federal Ministry of Health provides answers to numerous questions about vaccine types, the distribution of the  coronavirus vaccination and other topics.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research provides information on the special national programme and the status of vaccine research.


The Robert Koch Institute also offers FAQs on the subject of the coronavirus and vaccination.

In Germany, the Paul Ehrlich Institute is the body responsible for the approval of vaccine studies. The Institute provides information on how vaccines are developed and approved.


An overview of vaccine candidates has been compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) .


The European Medicines Agency is responsible for the approval procedure. 

Source: Federal Ministry of Health/Press and Information Office of the Federal Government