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COVID-19 VACCINES

German MPs scrap plan for over-18s Covid vaccine mandate

A plan to bring in compulsory vaccination for all adults in Germany has been shelved due to a lack of support.

A woman receiving her Covid vaccine in February.
A woman receiving her Covid vaccine in February. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

A group of cross-party MPs had proposed a general vaccine mandate that would apply to everyone over the age of 18 in Germany. 

But due to a lack of support for a majority, the group who put it forward have shelved the plan.

They will instead present a ‘compromise’ proposal in the German Bundestag. The new proposal calls for a vaccine mandate for everyone over the age of 50 from October 3rd, plus compulsory counselling on vaccination for all adults.

Introducing a general vaccine mandate has already proved controversial in Germany due a fairly small but loud minority who oppose the idea and protest regularly.

Since experts agree that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 generally causes less severe illness, supporters of a vaccine mandate in Germany have encountered more hurdles. 

Germany’s Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the Free Democrats (FDP), even said in February it was “doubtful” that bringing in a vaccine mandate for all adults would be accepted by the Constitutional Court.

READ ALSO: Will Germany introduce a vaccine mandate this year?

What exactly is the new draft proposal?

The latest proposal has been presented by MPs from the ruling coalition parties: the SPD, Greens and FDP. Group members include Dagmar Schmidt, Heike Baehrens and Dirk Wiese from the SPD, Till Steffen and Janosch Dahmen from the Greens, and Katrin Helling-Plahr and Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP.

As well as a vaccine obligation for people over 50, the draft says that people aged 18 to 49 would have to prove to their health insurer by September 15th that they have at had a consultation on Covid-19 and vaccines, if they are not already jabbed.

The new proposal also leaves open the possibility of extending compulsory vaccination to all adults at a later date, if necessary. The draft proposes a vote in the Bundestag at the beginning of September on whether there should be compulsory shots for people aged 18 to 49.

The group of MPs is also in favour of a vaccination register, as previously called for by the opposition CDU/CSU.

The bill sounds strikingly similar to another recent proposal for a vaccine mandate for over-50s, which also included a mandatory consultation for other adults. 

That bill was put forward earlier by a cross-party group of MPs surrounding FDP health expert Andrew Ullmann, including a number of SPD and Green Party politicians. However, this group wants to focus on increasing the vaccination rate first before imposing a vaccine mandate on over 50s.

There have been debates in the Bundestag so far on a rejection of compulsory vaccination, a compulsory vaccination from the age of 18, a compulsory vaccination from the age of 50 and the CDU/CSU’s concept of a graduated possible compulsory vaccination, which would only apply if the pandemic situation worsens. 

The Bundestag is to vote on compulsory vaccination on Thursday. So far, it’s unclear if any of the draft proposals will gain a majority. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says vaccines adapted to target the Covid variant Omicron could arrive in Germany in September.

Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister

During a press conference on Friday, Lauterbach said that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would approve the adapted vaccine for the BA1 subvariant of Omicron as early as September 1st. That means the vaccine could be delivered to Germany in early September.

Later in the month, European authorities will deal with the vaccine for the BA5 subvariant, which could then be delivered to Germany at the end of September. 

This means that the vaccines should be available just in time for the new Infection Protection Act, which is scheduled to come into force in Germany on October 1st.

Lauterbach said the government’s vaccination campaign for the Omicron booster shots is being prepared and will start “promptly”.

“The federal government has procured both vaccines in sufficient quantities,” he said. “We will therefore be supplied relatively early.”

The initial aim will be for risk groups to get the jab, if they haven’t had one recently. Health officials in Germany have been pushing for risk groups, such as older people, to get a fourth vaccination as soon as possible, rather than wait for the adapted vaccines.

READ ALSO: Reader question – Can I get a second booster jab in Germany?

Lauterbach recently told German media that others in Germany – such as those who have “a lot of contacts” should consider getting a second booster shot in some cases. That could apply to people who work in bars, for instance. Lauterbach recommended that these people talk to their family doctor. 

The general rule is that doctors do not have to vaccinate someone against Covid-19 if there is no official recommendation to do so. However, anyone can get the jab – free of charge – if they discuss it and agree with their doctor. 

The Local has asked for extra clarification from the Health Ministry on who should get an adapted vaccine when they arrive. 

Debate over mask rules for autumn

The Health Minister also talked about the planned new Covid protection laws and defended the proposals. They are set to be voted on and will come into force from October 1st.

Under the plans masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to keep measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport in place.

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

States will also have the choice to introduce compulsory masks in venues such as restaurants and bars – but there will be exemptions to wearing a mask for people who have recently been vaccinated (those jabbed in the previous three months), recovered or tested against Covid. 

Lauterbach said he believed that all states would introduce these extra restrictions because numbers would rise in autumn. 

Earlier this week some politicians said the exception to the mask rule did not make sense.

But Lauterbach said it would be safer if there were more freshly-vaccinated, recovered or tested people sitting in a restaurant than simply issuing a general mask requirement – because masks are removed when sitting down. 

The Health Minister also said that he didn’t think this would mean people would try to get vaccinated regularly just so they didn’t have to wear a mask. 

“It is not the case that vaccinations are given every three months,” Lauterbach said. He said the period of time for this exception could also change in future depending on research. 

Lauterbach said there are plans for the digital proof of vaccination or recovery on the Corona Warn app to be colour-coded to make it easier for venue bosses to check proof quickly. 

The Health Minister also said public facilities in Germany had managed to check 3G measures in the past. In previous Covid waves, people had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a test to enter a venue, which is known as the 3G rules.

Commenting on the current situation, Lauterbach said there was a “favourable development” as Germany appears to be getting over the summer Covid wave. 

“The summer wave is now slowly starting to recede,” the SPD politician said. 

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

The number of Covid deaths are also going down, but is not yet “where we would like it to be”, Lauterbach said. And he warned that when there are more indoor contacts due to the cooler weather in autumn, as well as schools going back, the situation could change again. 

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