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COVID-19 VACCINES

German authorities signal reprieve for unvaccinated health workers

As the debate over mandatory jabs continues to rage, it has emerged that unvaccinated health and care workers can continue in their roles until German health authorities have made a final decision on each of their cases.

A health worker prepares a dose of Covid vaccine
A health worker prepares a dose of Covid vaccine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

According to a spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Health, employees of hospitals and care facilities may be able to continue working even after the introduction of a professional vaccine mandate on March 15th – pending a decision by the authorities.

“Until the health authority has made a decision on a ban on entering or working, the employees concerned may in principle continue to be employed,” the spokesperson told Business Insider.

Under a law passed by the federal government in December, health and care workers must prove they are fully vaccinated by March 15th or face a potential termination of their contracts.

But in the last few weeks, there has been growing opposition to the move. 

Speaking to DPA on Tuesday, Eugen Brysch, Chairman of the Patient Protection Foundation, warned that the vaccine mandate for health workers must not be introduced “with a crowbar”.

“Health offices, regulatory authorities and employers do not see themselves in a position to implement the mammoth work by March 15th without serious upheaval,” he said.

READ ALSO:

His views were echoed by the deputy chairwoman of the Federal Association of Public Health Service Doctors, Elke Bruns-Philipps. Speaking to the Rheinische Post on Tuesday, Brans-Philipps estimated that around 5-10 percent of health and care workers may not be able to provide either proof of vaccination or a validity exemption in time for March.

“Examining each individual case is a considerable burden which the health authorities can’t cope with in a timely manner,” she said. “In principle, a procedure is envisaged with a new deadline set by the health office for the submission of vaccination documents and a hearing.”

Until a final decision is made, employees can remain in their jobs, the Health Ministry confirmed.

Mass resignations

Beyond the administrative issues for public servants, there are fears that the change could spark a wave of resignations in an already stretched healthcare sector.

Since the start of Covid, stress and long working hours have already caused of exodus of workers from hospitals and care homes: a recent poll suggested that a further 40 percent were considering changing professions. 

Some state and local authorities have already signalled that they would refuse to implement the vaccine mandate to avoid further losses. Others have asked the government to postpone the implementation of the mandate until a new protein-based vaccine, Novavax, is available on the market.

This so-called inactivated vaccine is believed to be more palatable for vaccine sceptics than the newer Covid-19 vaccines because it it relies on the traditional technology used in flu and cold vaccines for decades. 

READ ALSO: Can ‘old-fashioned’ Novavax vaccine convince German sceptics?

Speaking to the Rheinische Post on Tuesday, Gerald Gaß, the head of the German Hospital Association, suggested that the deadline for having full vaccination protection could be extended beyond March.

“We support the facility-based compulsory vaccination,” he said. “However, essential questions of further implementation are still unresolved, and therefore it may be necessary to adjust deadlines in the procedure.”

If the health authority bans an unvaccinated person from entering the workplace, the person concerned would be released from work without continued payment of wages, Gaß explained.

“But if an individual has already had the first vaccination, the other vaccinations can be made up quickly,” he added. “In these cases, we can imagine pragmatic solutions, such as an extension of the deadline, in order to retain the employees.”

Member comments

  1. In the UK they cancelled this already because it was being shown to be a dumb idea.

    Can you imagine loosing 10% of the healthcare service. As if they aren’t busy enough.also mandates are just stupid. Give people informed consent. Not for “the greater good” reminds me of that scene in Hot Fuzz. Its all very acultish.

  2. In Denmark all restrictions have been lifted/dropped. I think this is because a large proportion of their population have either had the virus and recovered or tested positive and had no or minimal symptoms.

    It *could* be that their health service have thrown in the towel . . . or that the government realise that the people have “die Schnauze voll” (are fed up).

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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

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