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COVID-19 VACCINES

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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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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