Vaccinated people are not ‘guinea pigs’, says Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the safety of Covid-19 vaccines on Tuesday in a rebuke against rival Olaf Scholz who said vaccinated people were "guinea pigs".

Vaccinated people are not 'guinea pigs', says Merkel
People waiting for the 'vaccination train' in Berlin on August 30th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

In what could be Merkel’s last speech in the Bundestag before the elections on September 26th, Merkel called on the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Vaccination works. You protect yourself and your loved ones. Vaccinating brings freedom back to us,” she said, urging people to get their jabs. 

Merkel took aim at SPD chancellor candidate and current vice-Chancellor Scholz who last week came under for using unusual words to promote vaccinations. 

READ ALSO: Merkel backs Laschet for German chancellor as CDU lags in polls 

Scholz told NRW local radio last week that vaccinated people had been “the guinea pigs for those who so far have held off” in a bid to emphasise that the vaccines were safe. 

“50 million have now been fully vaccinated,” he said. “We have all been the guinea pigs for those who have so far held off. So as one of those 50 million, I say – it went well. Please join in.”

On Tuesday Merkel said: “Of course, none of us were and are guinea pigs in any way when we get vaccinated. No one – neither Olaf Scholz nor me – and no one else.”

The vaccines in Germany, she said, had gone through all the necessary phases of clinical testing and all approval procedures.

In the Bundestag debate, Scholz hit back, saying that people could be convinced to get their jabs with humour. 

“If some people don’t want to laugh and get worked up about it, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they don’t have much to laugh about with a view to their poll ratings,” he said, pointing at the conservatives falling ratings in the polls. 

CDU leader and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet also slammed Scholz’s comments.

“People are not guinea pigs in this country,” said Laschet on Saturday in Potsdam. He called on his rival to refrain from using such terms.

Meanwhile, CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak said: “Anyone who describes 50 million vaccinated people as guinea pigs lowers confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

The latest data shows 65.9 percent of the German population has received at least one jab and 61.4 percent are fully vaccinated. Politicians and health experts are desperately trying to convince more people in Germany to get inoculated against the virus. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to Italy's vaccine mandate as "inadmissible” and “unfounded”, as 1.9 million people face fines for refusing the jab.

Italy's constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges were asked this week to determine whether or not vaccine mandates introduced by the previous government during the pandemic – which applied to healthcare and school staff as well as over-50s – breached the fundamental rights set out by Italy’s constitution.

Italy became the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

The Constitutional Court upheld the law in a ruling published on Thursday, saying it considered the government’s requirement for healthcare personnel to be vaccinated during the pandemic period neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.

Judges ruled other questions around the issue as inadmissible “for procedural reasons”, according to a court statement published on Thursday.

This was the first time the Italian Constitutional Court had ruled on the issue, after several regional courts previously dismissed challenges to the vaccine obligation on constitutional grounds.

A patient being administered a Covid jab.

Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

One Lazio regional administrative court ruled in March 2022 that the question of constitutional compatibility was “manifestly unfounded”.

Such appeals usually centre on the question of whether the vaccine requirement can be justified in order to protect the ‘right to health’ as enshrined in the Italian Constitution.

READ ALSO: Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Meanwhile, fines kicked in from Thursday, December 1st, for almost two million people in Italy who were required to get vaccinated under the mandate but refused.

This includes teachers, law enforcement and healthcare workers, and the over 50s, who face fines of 100 euros each under rules introduced in 2021.

Thursday was the deadline to justify non-compliance with the vaccination mandate due to health reasons, such as having contracted Covid during that period.

Italy’s health minister on Friday however appeared to suggest that the new government may choose not to enforce the fines.

“It could cost more for the state to collect the fines” than the resulting income, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci told Radio Rai 1.

He went on to say that it was a matter for the Economy and Finance Ministry, but suggested that the government was drawing up an amendment to the existing law.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

The League, one of the parties which comprises the new hard-right government, is pushing for fines for over-50s to be postponed until June 30th 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had promised a clear break with her predecessor’s health policies, after her Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic in 2021 when it was in opposition.

At the end of October, shortly after taking office, the new government allowed doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work earlier than planned after being suspended for refusing the Covid vaccine.

There has been uncertainty about the new government’s stance after the deputy health minister in November cast doubt on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, saying he was “not for or against” vaccination.

Italy’s health ministry continues to advise people in at-risk groups to get a booster jab this winter, and this week stressed in social media posts that vaccination against Covid-19 and seasonal flu remained “the most effective way to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially the elderly and frail”.