While the majority of the German population was fully vaccinated at the time (about 65%), COVID-19 incidence started growing exponentially in October 2021 with about 41% of recorded new cases aged twelve or above being symptomatic breakthrough infections, presumably also contributing to the dynamics. So far, it remained elusive how significant this contribution was and whether targeted non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) may have stopped the amplification of the crisis.We develop and introduce a contribution matrix approach based on the next-generation matrix of a population-structured compartmental infectious disease model to derive contributions of respective inter- and intragroup infection pathways of unvaccinated and vaccinated subpopulations to the effective reproduction number and new infections, considering empirical data of vaccine efficacies against infection and transmission. Here we show that about 61%–76% of all new infections were caused by unvaccinated individuals and only 24%–39% were caused by the vaccinated. Furthermore, 32%–51% of new infections were likely caused by unvaccinated infecting other unvaccinated. Decreasing the transmissibility of the unvaccinated by, e. g. targeted NPIs, causes a steeper decrease in the effective reproduction number R than decreasing the transmissibility of vaccinated individuals, potentially leading to temporary epidemic control. Reducing contacts between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals serves to decrease R in a similar manner as increasing vaccine uptake. A minority of the German population—the unvaccinated—is assumed to have caused the majority of new infections in the fall of 2021 in Germany. Our results highlight the importance of combined measures, such as vaccination campaigns and targeted contact reductions to achieve temporary epidemic control.