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BERLIN: Germany’s health minister on Friday (Mar 25) urged people over age 60 with risk factors such as high blood pressure or a weak heart to get a second booster shot against COVID-19 to reduce their risk of getting seriously ill.

Karl Lauterbach said he had asked the STIKO vaccine authority to adjust its current recommendation for a second booster to include a bigger group of people.

STIKO currently recommends second boosters for people aged 70 and above, and for people belonging to particularly high risk groups. Only 10 per cent of those have received it so far, Lauterbach told a news conference.

As in other European countries, infection rates in Germany have jumped in recent weeks. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported 296,498 new cases and 288 new deaths associated with COVID-19 on Friday after counting more than 300,000 new cases for the first time on Thursday.

The seven-day incidence was 1,756 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Omicron BA.2 has become the dominant coronavirus variant accounting for 72 per cent of cases, according to the RKI.

To be prepared for a potential new wave in autumn, Germany plans to buy a vaccine that will cover the whole spectrum of COVID-19 variants known so far, the minister said. He was in contact with the companies involved, and “we will have these vaccines very soon once they come on the market”.

Around 76 per cent of the German population are double vaccinated and 58 per cent have had a booster shot. That compares with more than 90 per cent vaccination rates in several other EU countries.

The German parliament has been debating a vaccine mandate, but it could take weeks before it votes on the divisive measure.