German MPs to decide on general vaccine mandate ‘in March’

German politicians in the Bundestag will be given a key vote on whether to introduce a general vaccine mandate by the end of March, the leader of SPD parliamentary group has revealed.

Covid vaccination in Berlin
Dr Jakob Ernst gives a homeless man a Covid jab in the Hofbräu restaurant in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Setting out a timeline for the introduction of the mandate, Rolf Mützenich said the first orientation debate would take place in a fortnight, with the SPD presenting key points for a bill immediately afterwards.

These points will then be used as the basis for a group motion that will be put together by parliamentarians from a range of different parties. 

After that, parliament should not take longer than two months to reach a decision in the Bundestag, Mützenich said.

“We will have completed this in March,” he added. 

The announcement was made ahead of Olaf Scholz’ first parliamentary questions on Wednesday in which the SPD politician faced a grilling on the latest Covid-19 measures introduced by his coalition. 

Scholz has come under increasing pressure on the introduction of the general vaccine obligation, which had appeared to be sidelined in recent months.

READ ALSO: Scholz pushes mandatory jabs as resistance grows in Germany

Last year, the newly elected chancellor had argued for a general vaccination obligation to come into force in early February or early March. This could have superceded another occupation-specific vaccine mandate for healthcare and care workers that has already been approved by parliament and is set to apply from March 15th. 

According to the SPD timetable, however, any form of general mandate would likely come into force a few months later than planned. 

‘Only for over 50s’

Though several high-profile politicians have come out in favour of introducing a general vaccination mandate, the move remains a controversial one. 

Critics have claimed that a general vaccine mandate could contravene the right to bodily autonomy that’s enshrined in Germany’s constitution, though advocates say it is a necessary in order to bring the Covid pandemic to an end. 

On Tuesday, conservative health specialist Stephan Pilsinger announced that the CDU/CSU would put forward its own bill in parliament that would see a general vaccine mandate introduced – but only for the over-50s. 

“Because the majority of Covid patients in intensive care are over 50, we can effectively protect the health system with compulsory vaccination of people who are over 50, while still keeping the encroachment on societal freedom as low as possible,” Pilsinger told newspapers with the Funke media group.

READ MORE: German conservatives float mandatory vaccination for over-50s

Age restrictions are just one way that politicians could seek to limit or modify any legislation on the mandate.

Speaking to The Local in December, FDP health expert Dr Andrew Ullmann speculated that the mandate could also be implemented regionally or for a very limited period of time to mitigate the impact on civil liberties.

However, Scholz told parliament on Wednesday that he was keen to implement the mandate “for all adults”. 

“There is no decision that you make just for yourself, and that is why compulsory vaccination is also important,” he emphasised.

‘Less likely by the day’

When the bill is put to a vote in March, it will be hard to determine whether it will secure a majority because MPs will be permitted to vote against their own party line in what’s known as a vote of conscience.

So far, there is only one motion from the governing SPD, Greens and FDP coalition that rejects compulsory vaccination. This was tabled by MPs surrounding the vice president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Kubicki of the FDP, who is a longstanding opponent of Covid restrictions and compulsory jabs. 

However, some voices in the medical profession have also spoken out against the move.

Speaking to RND on Wednesday, the chairman of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, called on Scholz to drop the idea.

Eugen Brysch

Eugen Brysch, president of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, has called on Scholz to drop the vaccine mandate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Deutsche Stiftung Patientenschut | Handout

“The discussion about compulsory vaccination is currently overshadowing everything,” Brysch said. “But whether it will really come is becoming less likely by the day.

“Even if the Chancellor has declared the issue of compulsory vaccination a top priority, he should also have the guts to turn back. For far too long, more urgent issues have been postponed.”

Asked to take a position on the issue, the Ethics Council recommended broadening the vaccine mandate out to “significant sections of the population”, arguing that the move could help prevent overburdening hospitals.

Introducing such a measure to protect the general population is possible under German constitutional law, the panel concluded. 

READ ALSO: German Ethics Council recommends extending vaccine mandates

Member comments

  1. Scholz is a fool if he doesn’t take this opportunity now to properly address focused protection rather than issue a general vaccine mandate. There is so much evidence available from reliable sources he could do the right thing and enjoy the credit for it in addition to taking a more sensible and proactive approach to getting back to normality. This article written by Ehud Qimron (Head of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Tel Aviv University) says it all.
    Given Scholz effectively has a blank slate he could restore the fading credibility in government and their health policy by taking a more effective approach now.

    1. I dont think he cares. It stopped being about the science Jan 2020.
      I read 30% of the entire country has lost complete faith in the government. I would not be surprised if its no longer about corona, but the pass. Whom ever does exactly what the government want is granted their freedoms for a short time. Disobedience results in quasi-lockdown.
      All hail Adolf scholz.

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Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

Vaccines for children aged six months to five-years-old are currently being rolled out in the United States. But can very young children also get a Covid jab in Germany?

Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

At the moment, only children aged five and above can get vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of a reduced dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine for children between the ages of five and 12, and this age group are able to get vaccinated by doctors at practices or at dedicated vaccine centres.

Back in May, Germany’s Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) issued a general Covid jab recommendation for 5-12 year olds. Previously, they had only recommended the shots to children with pre-existing conditions or vulnerable contacts.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for all children over five

Of course, some parents are keen to get their younger children vaccinated as well – and news from the US, where both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech has recently been approved for children under five, has given them hope that the same will happen in Germany.

So what exactly is going on?

Well, at the moment, there does seem to be some movement in that direction, but things are still up in the air. 

Back in April, Moderna announced that it had submitted a request to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a variation to the conditional marketing authorisation.

In plain English, this means they want permission to roll out a 25mg dose of their vaccine (as part of a two-dose series) for children aged six months to five years. This is the same dosage that is being used to vaccinate toddlers and babies in the US. 

In response to a question from The Local, Pfizer/BioNTech said it was also planning to file for authorisation for the under-fives vaccine from the EMA in early July. 

Depending on the EMA’s decision, this could pave the way for very young children to get the Covid jab in Germany.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the authorities will be recommending that all parents rush out and vaccinate their young’uns. 

Speaking to the Funke Media Group back in March, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) struck a cautious tone when talking about vaccines for under fives.

“In the studies, the vaccines have not shown the immunisation effect in young children that we had hoped for. But it is precisely in this age group that the effect must be particularly clearly proven,” he said.

“It is therefore unclear at the moment whether there will be a vaccination recommendation for under-fives in Germany.”

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

For its part, the EMA said it was in talks with Pfizer ahead of the submission of its application for approval.

“To date, no application for an extension of indication for the use of Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) in children under five has been submitted to EMA,” a spokesperson for the EMA told The Local.

“However, EMA is in contact with the company about the possible submission of data and we will communicate on our website should we receive a request for an extension of indication.”

At the time of writing, the German Health Ministry and Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had not responded to a request for comment.