ANALYSIS: Germany split over vaccine strategy as election looms

With Covid-19 infections rising and vaccinations grinding to a halt, Germany's inoculation campaign is threatening to become a political hot potato just two months ahead of a general election.

ANALYSIS: Germany split over vaccine strategy as election looms
A 'vaccination station' at the open air festival 'Culture Island Wöhrmühle' in Erlangen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Unlike other European countries such as France and Greece, Germany has so far ruled out introducing compulsory jabs for certain parts of the population.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun caused a storm at the weekend by suggesting that “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedom than unvaccinated people” if case numbers rise again in the autumn.

This could mean they are not allowed to access restaurants, sports venues or other facilities, for example – even if they can provide a recent negative test.

Government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer has insisted that mandatory vaccines will not be introduced through so-called “back door” measures restricting the unvaccinated.

But she also said the government would do “everything to avoid a situation like the one we saw in spring” and said that in the event of further exponential virus growth, “we will have to take further measures”.

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

‘Extremely dangerous’

In a country scarred by memories of Nazi and communist dictatorships that spied on citizens and stole their freedoms, forced vaccination – even indirectly through restrictions on the unvaccinated – is a hard sell for many.

The country has only one mandatory vaccine – against measles in a measure that went into effect in 2020.

Armin Laschet, the head of Merkel’s conservative CDU party and the favourite to succeed her as chancellor after Germany’s election on September 26th, has said he does not believe in compulsory jabs — or in different treatment for those who are not vaccinated.

“In the end, I think freedoms have to apply to everyone if you don’t want compulsory vaccination,” he told the ZDF broadcaster.

But Der Spiegel magazine said Tuesday that the debate around vaccination could prove “extremely dangerous for Laschet”.

After a dismal start to the year, the conservatives have seen their ratings rise over the summer thanks to low infection numbers and a series of blunders by their closest rivals, the Greens.

But with cases rising again and barely 50 percent of the population fully vaccinated, “discussions about vaccination could poison the atmosphere” justas “the phase of the campaign begins”, Der Spiegel said.

Germany has seen low infection numbers over the summer compared to many of its European neighbours, but cases have been creeping up over the past two weeks, largely fuelled by the Delta variant.


Merkel said last week she was concerned about what she called an “exponential” rise in cases, urging as many Germans as possible to get vaccinated.

‘The only way’

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency on Tuesday recorded 1,545 new infections in Germany over the past 24 hours and an incidence rate of 14.5 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days — up from a low of 4.9 in early July.

Meanwhile, the country’s vaccination drive has slowed to a snail’s pace, with just 49.7 percent of Germans fully vaccinated as of Tuesday — well under
the 85 percent deemed necessary by the RKI.

For the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, politicians should have the “courage to say that compulsory vaccination could be a last resort in the fight against Covid”.

Even those opposed to compulsory jabs are increasingly coming out in favour of different treatment for those who choose to forego the jab.


Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht has suggested that unvaccinated people should be forced to pay for their own tests – an idea supported by influential Bavarian premier Markus Söder.

And the German Ethics Council, which advises the government on its vaccination strategy, has cautiously stated that mandatory jabs for specific professions could be considered under certain circumstances.

“However, I would say that these circumstances do not apply at all” at the moment, council president Alena Buyx told the ARD broadcaster, noting that vaccination rates among German health workers and teachers were high.

Jens Michow, executive president of the German events industry association (BDKV), told Die Welt newspaper that compulsory jabs for customers and staff were “the only way” to save the industry from ruin.


Member comments

  1. Unfortunately, “Laughing Boy” Laschet is probably going to drag the Union down with him to make the SPD a credible alternative, particularly in alliance with the Greens. The Union need to ditch him for Söder to have any chance in these Fall elections!

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What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?