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.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks at a G7 conference on April 7th, 2022
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks at a G7 conference on April 7th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

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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German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign

Following the failure of the vaccine mandate, medical experts in Germany fear an escalation of the pandemic in the autumn.

German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign

After his proposed vaccination mandate faced a crushing defeat in the German parliament on Thursday, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is now calling for a strengthened vaccination campaign to target those who have not yet had the jab – including migrants and other underrepresented groups.

READ ALSO: German parliament rejects over-60s vaccine mandate

As of Friday morning, 76.0 percent of the total population of Germany had been vaccinated and 58.9 percent had been given a third “booster” jab. 

“Once again, we need to target a really effective vaccination campaign at those who have not yet been vaccinated but are willing in principle,” Lauterbach said. He added that one such group was Germany’s immigrant population, which remains underrepresented in vaccination coverage. 

“They have to be reached; we can’t give up,” Lauterbach said. “We also have to advertise more creatively. We’re preparing something there right now.”

The SPD politician told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday that he expects the pandemic to worsen in the autumn and is calling for an amendment to the Infection Protection Act by then.

Following the failure of the vaccine mandate, other medical experts have also raised their concerns about a worsening of the pandemic again in the autumn – even to the point of new lockdowns.

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

“The fact is that we have to expect rising infection figures again in the autumn,” Gerald Gaß, CEO of the German Hospital Association (DKG), told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. “Politicians must prepare for this today in order to avoid overloading the healthcare system.”

Karl Lauterbach also said he no longer sees the possibility for further relaxations of Covid measures.

Currently, the vast majority of Covid measures have been dispensed with in Germany, though people are still expected to wear masks on public transport and in hospitals and care homes. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: The Covid rules you still need to know in Germany

“We have now made the relaxations that can be made, but there we have reached the end of the line,” he said. “If we had gotten the vaccination requirement right, the scope for relaxations in the autumn would have been much greater. Now the way I see it is that in the autumn, the Infection Protection Act will probably have to be adjusted again at an early stage.”

The Federal Health Minister plans to discuss the current infection situation and developments in the Covid pandemic in a joint press conference with RKI chief Lothar Wieler on Friday.