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EXPLAINED: What to do if your second Covid jab in Germany clashes with your holiday

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It’s been a long wait for the Covid vaccine rollout in Germany to truly get underway, yet with around 53.6 percent of the population now partially vaccinated, many people feel as if freedom is just around the corner.

But with summer and the school holidays now upon us, there’s another risk: being given an appointment for the second shot at the exact same time you’re flying abroad for a post-lockdown holiday. 

That’s exactly what happened to Birgit H., a resident of Bavaria who shared her story with regional radio station BR24.

Having booked a holiday in Greece a few days after her last dose of vaccine was due, her GP surgery suddenly informed her they had run out of doses, and had to push the appointment back a week. In other words – to the exact same time she was supposed to be on the beach.

READ ALSO: Is Germany set to tighten testing and quarantine travel rules?

If you’re in Birgit’s position, it may seem like bad luck, but you do have options. Here’s what you need to know about your consumer rights if your second dose coincides with your holiday. 

My doctor offered me a vaccine appointment and then suddenly postponed it – can I take legal action?

According to legal experts, vaccine appointments – much like Ikea delivery windows – are considered more of a rough estimation of when you will be seen, rather than a cast-iron guarantee. 

Vaccination centres and doctors’ surgeries can’t generally be held liable if the appointment you’ve been given isn’t honoured, travel law expert Professor Ronald Schmid of Dresden Technical University told BR24. 

What about travel insurance? Will that help?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic came to Europe, travel insurance has provided tourists with a sense that they can hedge their bets against ongoing uncertainty – such as sudden outbreaks of the pandemic, travel bans or falling ill.

In reality, however, travel insurance policies don’t tend to account for every eventuality, and it’s quite unlikely that they’d reimburse a missed holiday due to a vaccination appointment. 

That’s according to Julia Zeller, a lawyer from the Bavarian Consumer Advice Centre, who spoke to BR24 about the issue. In most cases, your travel insurance will cover you if you get ill ahead of your trip abroad, and in Zeller’s view, it’s unlikely that this would stretch to include vaccinations.

Nevertheless, she says, it’s always worth checking the small-print of your policy. You never know whether you might be eligible for a refund, after all. 

Do holidays count as a valid excuse to postpone a vaccine appointment?  

According to the Bavarian Health Ministry, the answer is ‘no’ – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try. Though planned holidays aren’t considered an “urgent personal reason” for a postponement, your vaccination centre or GP may be willing to show some flexibility. 

For AstraZeneca, for example, the Federal Health Ministry has previously said that those willing to get inoculated with the the vector vaccine are free to organise the gap between doses with their doctor – as long as the second appointment falls within the permitted window of four to twelve weeks.

READ ALSO: Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?

For Modern and Pfizer/BioNTech, official advice suggests that the second dose should be taken no more than 60 days (or roughly eight and a half weeks) after the first, so be aware of this if you attempt to postpone the second dose. 

There’s also the chance that last-minute doses may show up after all due to missed appointments – which is exactly what happened to Birgit H., BR24 reports. 

Can I postpone my holiday instead?

If you’re unable to find a suitable alternative appointment for your second vaccine dose, changing or cancelling your trip may well be the best option. Many travel agents have introduced a range of ‘good faith’ options for people to amend their trip due to Covid-related issues, though Zeller doesn’t believe that vaccination appointments are generally covered.

According to the consumer rights expert, you may be given two options: either take the holiday regardless, or cancel or amend it and pay the associated fees. 

However, with many travel agents and airlines offering flexible booking options in the Covid pandemic, a lot may depend on the type of booking you have; how last-minute your request is, and how willing the company is to compromise. In any case, if you approach your travel agent or airline and explain your situation, they may be open to finding another solution. 

Does it matter that I’m not fully vaccinated when I leave to go abroad?

For many countries (although not all), people who can present a negative test or certificate of recovery from Covid-19 are put on an even-footing with the fully vaccinated when entering Germany, so if your final vaccine appointment falls after your holidays, you should still in some cases be able to travel with a negative test or proof of recovery instead. 

READ ALSO: Germany relaxes travel rules for vaccinated non-EU residents – What you need to know

That said, you may feel more comfortable travelling abroad when you have greater immunity, especially if you are visiting bustling tourist hotspots. 

Based on present evidence, medical experts believe that a single dose of vaccine is much less effective against the Delta variant of Covid-19 than a completed course of vaccinations.

This could mean that a visit abroad poses greater risks to people who aren’t yet fully immunised – though the choice, of course, is up to you. 

Vocabulary

holiday – (der) Urlaub

postpone appointment – (der) Termin verschieben 

consumer rights – (die) Verbraucherrechte

cancel – stornieren 

amend – ändern

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.



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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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