RKI assumes higher vaccination rate than reported

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Thu 7th Oct, 2021

According to a new evaluation by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Corona vaccinations in Germany are probably already further advanced than recorded in the reporting statistics. It can be assumed that among adults, up to 84 percent have already been vaccinated at least once and up to 80 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a current RKI report with a cut-off date of October 5. That would correspond in each case to five percentage points higher vaccination rates than according to official reports from the vaccination centers.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) spoke of "really good news" and considers mask requirements outdoors no longer necessary - indoors, however, protective rules remain important.

The vaccination campaign was "even more successful than previously thought," Spahn said, referring to the RKI evaluations. "This gives us additional security for fall and winter. We want to return to freedom and normality step by step with prudence and caution."

The vaccination rates that have now been achieved make it possible to dispense with requirements such as the wearing of medical masks outdoors. Indoors, access rules for vaccinated, recovered and tested persons (3G) with the option for 2G only for vaccinated and recovered persons remained important - as did hygiene rules with distance and masks, especially in buses and trains.

"From today's perspective, there will be no need for any more restrictions," Spahn said, referring to the fall and winter. "However, every further vaccination increases safety and enables even more normality," the minister told German Press Agency.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach called the new RKI data plausible. Still, he said, this is not enough for a "Freedom Day" - that is, an end to all restrictions. "A few weeks of 2G and good vaccination offers would help," Lauterbach wrote on Twitter.

The RKI explains in the analysis, which was first reported by the newspapers of the Funke Media Group, that "it seems reasonable to assume that the vaccination rate reported in the Digital Vaccination Rate Monitoring is to be understood as a minimum vaccination rate and that an underestimation of up to 5 percentage points can be assumed for the proportion vaccinated at least once or fully vaccinated."

The estimate is based on citizen surveys and reporting data. To put this into perspective, five percentage points among adults roughly corresponds to 3.5 million people.The background to this is that in surveys conducted by the RKI, significantly more people state that they have already been vaccinated than are recorded in the reporting statistics. According to their reports from vaccination centers such as medical practices, company doctors and vaccination centers, almost 80 percent of people aged 18 and older have received their first injection, and a good 75 percent have already received their second.

In terms of the entire population, 65 percent, or 54 million people, are now fully vaccinated with the second shot usually needed for this, according to data released Thursday. At least one first vaccination is available to 56.8 million people, or 68.4 percent of all residents.

The RKI cites several explanations for a higher vaccination rate among adults - including that people who are less likely to be vaccinated are underrepresented in the surveys. In addition, the RKI states that people with poor German language skills are not able to participate in the survey. "There is a presumption that language barriers also lead to lower uptake of COVID-19 vaccination."

In addition, certain vaccinations are not even recorded in the statistics. In August, the RKI had already reported "some uncertainty" in the interpretation of vaccination rate data.There are probably also some reporting delays. For example, only about half of the company physicians registered in the digital system have reported vaccinations via the web application. This could be "an indication of under-reporting of vaccination rates."

In addition, it could be assumed that not all vaccinations are transmitted via corresponding reporting portals in everyday practice. Assuming that all doses delivered by Sept. 27 had been vaccinated by Oct. 5, for example, the proportion vaccinated at least once among adults increased by 3.2 points.

The German Foundation for Patient Protection criticized the government's reliance on surveys to assess vaccination progress. "After all, it is well known that surveys like to indicate socially desirable behaviors," said board member Eugen Brysch. "The facts alone are decisive." By praising higher vaccination rates, he said, Spahn was doing a disservice to the vaccination campaign.

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