German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Monday said it was important for at-risk individuals to have their coronavirus vaccinations in advance of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Lauterbach, himself a trained epidemiologist, said the takeup rate of newly adapted boosted shots designed to fight current COVID-19 variants was so far disappointing.
What did the minister say about COVID shots?
With three weeks to go until Christmas Day, Lauterbach said it was "the optimal time" for people identified as vulnerable to have the COVID-19 shot.
This would allow the vaccine to take full effect before the large social gatherings and travel that often take place at Christmas, he said.
Germany's Standing Commission on Vaccination recommends an annual booster vaccination for people with an increased risk of a serious course of the disease.
The minister stressed that an infection was not a simple cold and that the virus remained a real threat to people with chronic health issues.
"At the moment the danger posed by COVID is actually being underestimated," he said.
Lauterbach was speaking after a meeting about the long-term health effects of coronavirus with healthcare, medicine and science representatives.
"The problem of Long COVID has not yet been solved," said Lauterbach.
How bad is the rise in coronavirus cases?
There had been an estimated 1,700 new infections per 100,000 people in seven days, Lauterbach revealed.
The updated coronavirus vaccine is specially adapted to the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant.
Nicknamed the Kraken, the subvariant became prevalent earlier this year and caught virologists' attention because it contains more mutations to evade immunity than other variants seen so far.
XBB.1.5 has stronger binding capabilities to the target host receptor, which makes it more efficient at spreading.
Lars Schaade, head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute public health agency, said that the current level of infections did not have the same significance as at the height of the pandemic. This, he said, was because of raised basic immunity through prior infections and vaccination.