Germany divided over Covid vaccine mandate

German MPs are to debate a general vaccine mandate for the first time on Wednesday, but many people are divided over the proposals.

A protester holds a sign that says: 'vaccine obligation - no thanks' during a demonstration in Bautzen, Saxony.
A protester holds a sign that says: 'vaccine obligation - no thanks' during a demonstration in Bautzen, Saxony, on January 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

The introduction of compulsory vaccination has been the subject of controversial debate in Germany for weeks.

Supporters of the move see it as a necessary measure to significantly increase the vaccination rate in the fight against Covid-19, and to get the pandemic under control. 

Opponents say that a mandate is not needed – and point out that leading politicians of all parties did, until recently, pledge that there would be no compulsory vaccinations in Germany. 

The consultations in the Bundestag start at 3pm and are scheduled to last three hours. It is a so-called orientation debate, and is not yet based on a concrete bill.

Speakers from the SPD include Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not speak in this debate.

Scholz and Lauterbach have spoken out in favour of compulsory vaccination for people in Germany over the age of 18.

The ‘traffic light’ coalition government – made up of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP – have already agreed that MPs should deliberate and vote on their own conscience rather than have to follow a party line. 

A number of debates will take place and the vote will likely be held in the coming weeks. 


How might a general vaccine mandate work in Germany?

There are three approaches being discussed so far:

  • A draft proposal for a vaccine mandate for everyone aged 18 and over in Germany, which Scholz envisions, is currently being prepared by parliamentarians of all three traffic light factions
  • A group around FDP MP Andrew Ullmann are putting together a proposal for a “middle way” mandate, which would see a compulsory, professional and personal counselling interview for all unvaccinated adults. And if the necessary vaccination quota is not reached after a certain time, people over the age of 50 would have to prove they were vaccinated
  • And a group around FDP vice-president Wolfgang Kubicki wants to prevent compulsory vaccination altogether

As The Local has reported, if the vaccine mandate law is voted through by parliament, three jabs would be required for someone to count as fully vaccinated, rather than the previous two. 

At the moment at least 42.2 million people, or 50.8 per cent of all residents, have already been boosted. 

This means that they have usually received three injections – all recommended vaccinations. Meanwhile, many people will be due for their booster vaccinations soon so that number will increase. 

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 15 percent of the 69.4 million adults in Germany are still not vaccinated. Some, however, cannot receive a jab for medical reasons.

Before the initial debate, party representatives from all camps promoted their positions.

“Age is an easily measured risk factor for a severe course (of Covid),” Ullmann told the Augsburger Allgemeine.

“A vaccination requirement for people over the age of 50 can fulfil this goal.”

What do people outside politics think?

A majority of people in Germany think the debate on compulsory vaccination contributes to the division of society, according to a survey.

In the poll conducted by YouGov for DPA, 62 percent of respondents held this view, while 26 percent said they didn’t see a danger of further division.

However, 79 percent said that society is already divided into people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who are unvaccinated – two years after the start of the pandemic.

A recent YouGov survey suggested that 60 percent of Germans support the introduction of compulsory vaccination, down from 63 percent in December. A total of 32 percent said they were against it.

There have, however, been several high profile demonstrations held across Germany against vaccines in recent weeks. 

Meanwhile, Detlef Scheele, chairman of the Federal Employment Agency (BA), told Funke Mediengruppe newspapers that a general vaccination requirement would help the labour market.

“It spares certain sectors from having certain difficulties in the pandemic,” he said. Therefore, “it is important that politics gets going now and sets a regulation in motion”.


Orientation debate – (die) Orientierungsdebatte

Introduction (die) Einführung 

Controversial – kontrovers

Division of society – Spaltung der Gesellschaft

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Member comments

  1. When will Germany realise that there are some powers forbidden to Governments in a free society – however many parliamentary votes say otherwise. The pre-war German parliament was the product of a democratic process and still voted through forced sterilisation and forced euthanasia in 1934. There is more to making a democracy than the voting system.

    1. agreed. the Nuremburg Code was supposed to prohibit governmental intervention in a citizen’s bodily rights, or have we all forgotten that? there should be public referendums on matters like this, which are clearly extraordinary circumstances. parliamentary democracy should allow for public forums and votes – locally and nationally – on rules and restrictions which affect all aspects of life and society, not to mention mandates which fundamentally impact basic personal rights of medical choice and bodily sovereignty. also, if you compare Germany with the US, which also has a representative system, there is a big difference in the relationship to the populace and the representatives. in the US, representatives are very much seen as employed by the people and are held to account much more than in Germany. it seems that citizens here are much. more resigned to whatever the rules say, assuming they have little influence over the decisions being made by the Bundestag at any level.

      1. Generally speaking, a parliamentary majority should only be authority for a Govt to do what can later be undone by a different parliamentary majority. To the best of my knowledge , it will not be possible to un-vaccinate anyone , coerced by the present Government, in future. The Nuremberg code is very specific and bears the name of a German town for good reason. The Govt should explain to the German people why it was formulated in the first place ( ie a protection against Governments ) and why the German people ( almost uniquely in the World ) need no protection from them..

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For members


Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

With Covid infections likely to rise again in autumn, many are wondering whether it makes sense to secure a fourth jab ahead of time. Here's a look at the official recommendations for a second booster and who is eligible to get one.

Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

Germany is currently in a period of relative calm when it comes to Covid infections. After a major spike in cases earlier in summer, the incidence has dropped dramatically and people continue to enjoy their daily lives with relatively few restrictions.

Nevertheless, with the colder months approaching, experts are predicting a fierce resurgence in case numbers and a difficult winter for the health service. Along with the Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), the German Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has urged certain risk groups to book a fourth Covid jab. 

READ ALSO: Germany has passed peak of summer Covid wave, says RKI

But with mixed messages coming from the government and scientists in recent weeks, many are still unclear about whether they could be eligible for a fourth shot. Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the official recommendations?

On Friday, STIKO extended its recommendation for a fourth Covid jab to people aged 60 and over. Previously, a second booster was only recommended for over-70s, people older than five who have weakened immune systems, and healthcare workers who are at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

“STIKO is expanding its recommendation with the primary aim of providing particularly at-risk individuals with even better protection against severe Covid-19 illnesses and Covid-related deaths,” the vaccines panel said in a statement.

For people under the age of 60 who don’t have any immune deficiencies, and those who don’t work in the health or care sectors, there is currently no official recommendation to get a fourth jab. That’s because, according to STIKO, “this group of people would not benefit significantly from an additional vaccine dose”. 

Instead, the vaccines panel recommends three doses of Covid vaccine for individuals over the age of 12 with no pre-existing health conditions. For over-18s, the third jab should be administered after three months, while an interval of at least six months is recommended for 12-17 year olds.

READ ALSO: German vaccines commission recommends fourth Covid jab for over-60s

What do the experts say? 

There has been some disagreement in the medical community about whether an additional booster shot would particularly benefit people who don’t fall into one of the higher risk groups for severe illness. 

In a recent interview with RBB, immunologist Andreas Radbruch said that a second booster jab could help improve immunity for those with imperfect immune systems. 

“But for the vast majority of people, two vaccinations and one infection or three vaccinations are absolutely enough,” he said.

In contrast, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the chief executive of the World Medical Association, spoke out on Monday in favour of a general recommendation for a second booster jab.

Frank Ulrich Montgomery

Frank Ulrich Montgomery, chair of the World Medical Association, speaks at the German Doctors’ Day in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

Welcoming the news that STIKO had expanded its recommendation for a fourth jab to over-60s, Montgomery told RND: “STIKO should additionally recommend that those under 60 years of age, whose last vaccination or infection was at least six months ago, can also receive a second booster vaccination if they wish.”

Earlier this year, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) caused some confusion when he appeared to contradict the advice of STIKO in recommending that young people also get a second booster jab. 

Receiving a fourth vaccination would grant people “a completely different level of safety,” he told Spiegel, adding that people should “get vaccinated of course based on a consultation with their doctor.” 

However, he has since spoken more cautiously and primarily urged over-60s and people who at high risk of severe illness to seek out a fourth jab. 

How can I get the jab if I want it? 

Since there is currently no general recommendation for a fourth Covid shot, people who don’t fall into one of the risk groups named by STIKO may find it slightly more difficult to get a second booster.

According to Montgomery, many hospitals and GPs are unwilling to vaccinate when a positive decision from STIKO is still pending.

“The fact that it is legally possible to be vaccinated is not enough for many,” he said. “STIKO should consider this in its decisions.”

However, people who are keen to get an additional dose of vaccine should nevertheless discuss this option with their doctor, who should be able to advise them further. 

Of course, anyone over 60, health and care workers and those with immune deficiencies can book a jab at a Covid vaccination centre, their doctor’s surgery or at one of the pharmacies that currently offers Covid vaccinations. 

As a general rule, fourth vaccinations should only be administered six months or more after the third jab or most recent Covid infection. They should also be carried out with an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. 

READ ALSO: Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

Is it worth waiting for the new Omicron vaccines?

Two new adapted mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech are on their way later this year. One of these will be modified to offer protection against Omicron subtype BA.4, and another will offer protection against subtype BA.5.

These two subtypes are currently dominant in Germany.

On Friday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said he had ordered enough supplies of the Omicron-adapted vaccines that there would be enough for everyone who wanted one.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD)

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) updates the media on the Covid situation at press conference in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

With the European Medicines Agency (EMA) likely to approve the new vaccines in September, the first doses could be delivered as soon as October.

However, Lauterbach has repeatedly warned people who are at risk of severe courses of Covid not to wait for the Omicron vaccines before getting a fourth jab.

“I strongly advise citizens over 60 to follow the advice of the STIKO and not wait for the new vaccines,” he told RND. 

According to official statistics, just 8.5 percent of the population has received a second booster jab, including 24 percent of over-60s and just 2.4 percent of people aged 18-59.

Further recommendations specific to the Omicron vaccines once more scientific data is available and after they have been approved by the EMA.