With Covid vaccinations continuing over the Christmas holidays, the government was able to achieve its 30-million jab goal, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) announced on Sunday.
However, the majority of vaccines administered were so-called booster doses, meaning that a large number of people still have no vaccine protection at all.
According to the Robert Koch Institute’s vaccination dashboard, 21.7 million people in Germany are still unvaccinated – equating to 26.2 percent of the population. Of these, four million people (around 4.8 percent of the population) are aged 0 to 4 years. Currently, there is no approved vaccine for this age group.
German states started vaccinating children aged five and over in the second week of December.
Around 147 million vaccination doses have been administered since the vaccination campaign officially began on December 27th, 2020. As of Monday, 70.8 percent of the population were fully vaccinated, and 36 percent of the population has received an additional booster jab. Boosters are considered vital for rebuffing the highly infectious Omicron variant.
A debate is still raging over how to win over the segment of the population who continue to be hesitant about receiving a Covid jab. The government initially said it would aim to give 80 percent of the population at least one jab by January 7th, but this deadline has now been pushed back to the end of January.
The traffic light coalition government – consisting of the SDP, Greens and FDP – is considering introducing a general vaccine mandate, with a parliamentary debate on the issue likely to take place in January.
As a first step towards compulsory jabs, the government has already passed a law to make vaccination mandatory for employees in clinics or nursing homes. By March 15th 2022, all employees in these sectors must prove that they have been fully vaccinated or produce a letter explaining that they are unable to get inoculated for medical reasons.
In a recommendation published on Wednesday, the German Ethics Council came out in favour of extending the recently adopted compulsory vaccination for staff in healthcare institutions to “significant sections of the population”. But there are questions over whether this could contradict the right to bodily autonomy enshrined in Germany’s constitution.
On Monday morning, the newly elected leader of the CDU, Friedrich Merz, suggested a step-by-step plan to include other groups in a compulsory vaccination.
In Merz’s view, a general vaccination obligation raises a number of ethical, constitutional and organisational questions that must be clarified before a decision is made.
“Perhaps a kind of graduated plan for group-related vaccination obligations could also lead to the goal,” he told RND.
This would include, for example, employees in schools, day-care centres and universities, but also police, fire brigade and aid organisations.
“Such a duty could be imposed on them because they have made a commitment to serve this country from the very beginning of their employment,” the CDU politician emphasised.