German conservatives propose vaccine mandate in three stages

Germany's CDU and CSU parliamentary group have put forward their own proposal for compulsory Covid vaccination, which would be enforced in three steps according to the pandemic situation.

A drive-in vaccination point in Berlin.
A drive-in vaccination point in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

The Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the CSU, believe there should be a staggered “vaccination mechanism” for different groups of people which would only take effect if the Covid situation worsens. 

The criteria for when the graduated vaccination requirement would take effect is still being thrashed out, reported German broadcaster ARD on Friday. 

In the proposal they discuss considering the severity of the Covid virus variant, its transmissibility and the extent of the population’s immunity.

The details would be formulated in a possible new law, the group said. 

The introduction of compulsory vaccination has sparked a heated debate in Germany for weeks.

Another group of politicians from the governing traffic light coalition want to see a general vaccine mandate for everyone over the age of 18 in Germany. 

READ ALSO: German MPs set out plans for over-18s vaccine mandate

The conservative bloc proposes three stages:

– In a first stage, everyone over the age of 60 would have to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

– The second stage concerns people over the age of 50.

– The last stage is for employees of critical infrastructure, schools, childcare centres and the police.

The proposal does not discuss compulsory vaccination, but instead uses the “vaccination mechanism” (Impfmechanismus) phrase.

The conservatives propose that the mechanism be activated by the Bundestag – if necessary – similar to what MPs in Germany did when they “determined the epidemic situation of national significance” at the beginning of the pandemic. That resulted in exceptional Covid restrictions being brought in. 

The Bundestag would then also clarify at which stage, i.e. for which group of people, the vaccination mechanism takes effect.

READ ALSO: Germany divided over Covid vaccine mandate

CDU/CSU Bundestag group backs a vaccination register

The Christian Democrats and the CSU group are also calling for a ‘vaccination register’ to be implemented in Germany where people’s details would be stored. 

However, this is controversial because of data protection concerns.

The Union proposal is also vague about sanctions. Those who choose not to get vaccinated despite the legal obligation would face a fine, but it is not yet clear how much this would be.

In recent months, the CDU/CSU had strongly advocated for a general vaccination obligation.

But many politicians are now wavering because the Omicron wave has been found to cause less severe illness than previous variants like Delta. 

The federal government is not planning its own bill on compulsory vaccination.

Individual MPs, groups of MPs or individual parliamentary groups are submitting proposals instead. 

However, politicians will be able to vote according to their conscience without having to toe the party line. 

As well as the proposal for compulsory vaccination for everyone over the age of 18 in Germany, the AfD parliamentary group has handed in its own motion, which rejects compulsory vaccination.

A group around the FDP politician Wolfgang Kubicki has also taken a clear position against compulsory vaccination.

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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.