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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Germany’s Scholz rules out second attempt at vaccine mandate

After an attempt to introduce an over-60s vaccine mandate was rejected in parliament, German chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has said his government will not bring the issue to a vote again.

Germany's Scholz rules out second attempt at vaccine mandate

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has rejected the idea of a second attempt to introduce mandatory Covid vaccinations.

“There is no legislative majority in the Bundestag for compulsory vaccination,” he said on Thursday evening after consultations with the leaders of the federal states in Berlin.

Expressing his regret at the lack of support for the move, he said this reality would have to be the “starting point” for any future vaccination drives. 

“I am, of course, disappointed that there was no majority today, I don’t want to hide that at all,” said Scholz. “I am still convinced that it would be right to have compulsory vaccination in Germany. With the Bundestag decision, however, a very clear statement by the legislator had now been made.”

Despite the fact that Covid-19 vaccines have been available in Germany for more than a year, around 24 percent of the population still have no vaccine protection whatsoever.

Of these, around 4-5 percent are too young to get the Covid vaccine, but around 20 percent are either against the idea or still on the fence. 

“We will do everything we can to convince even more citizens of this country to get vaccinated,” Scholz told reporters. “This will require our creativity.”

READ ALSO: Scholz gets stinging defeat in parliament with Covid jab vote

On Thursday, a bill for compulsory vaccination for everyone over the age of 60 was voted down in the Bundestag, dealing a painful blow to its supporters in the traffic-light coalition. 

The bill had been promoted primarily by SPD and Green MPs, including Scholz himself and Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). A motion from the opposition CDU/CSU parties to introduce a vaccine register and potential target vaccine mandates was also rejected by the house. 

‘Bitter defeat’

Scholz is not alone in ruling out the possibility of reviving the vaccine mandate issue. 

Speaking to Tagesschau in Berlin, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the failure of the bill had been a “bitter defeat” that made it unlikely that any future bill on the subject would gain enough support to succeed.

“It’s a clear result that has to be lived with,” he said. “I’m sceptical about whether we can still achieve anything through additional talks.”

In a democracy, he said, this had to be respected.

But he explained that the failure of compulsory vaccination is bad news for vulnerable patients, for those who work to treat and care for Covid patients, and for all those who have to live with restrictions. A new wave of infections is likely by autumn at the latest, Lauterbach said.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign