Germany eyes Covid jabs for soldiers as vaccine debate rages

German army at Tegel
The German Army supports the vaccination campaign at Tegel Vaccination Centre in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder
Germany said on Tuesday it expected to make Covid jabs mandatory for soldiers "soon", amid growing calls for the country to consider a general vaccine mandate to combat a raging fourth wave of the pandemic.

Defence ministry officials and army personnel representatives have agreed “to include the Covid vaccine on the list of vaccines” required for soldiers, a ministry spokesman told AFP.

Although the mandate has yet to be formalised, “the implementation is expected soon”, he added.

The move would make German troops the first public servants to be obliged to be jabbed against the virus.

It comes as the army is preparing to deploy soldiers to help local authorities with vaccinations, tests and other efforts to counter soaring infection rates expected in the weeks ahead.

Only those soldiers on foreign missions have so far been obliged to be vaccinated.

The surge in coronavirus cases and rapidly filling intensive care beds have ignited a fierce debate in Germany about whether to follow Austria’s example and make vaccines mandatory for all citizens.

Germany’s Covid-19 crisis has in part been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate compared with Western European nations like France, Italy or Spain, with just 68 percent of the population fully jabbed.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is the Covid situation on German hospital wards?

‘Laziness’

In a rare media interview, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s husband condemned Germany’s vaccine holdouts.

“It is astonishing that a third of the population does not follow scientific findings,” Joachim Sauer, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“In part, this is due to a certain laziness and complacency of Germans,” said Sauer, who like his wife is a quantum chemist.

Outgoing Chancellor Merkel, who is acting in a caretaker capacity and will likely be replaced by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz next month, has repeatedly urged Germans to get vaccinated.

‘Ever higher price’

Germany last week announced tougher Covid curbs, including requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, cured or have recently tested negative for the virus before they can travel on public transport or go into the workplace.

Several of Germany’s 16 states have gone further still, cancelling large events like Christmas markets and barring the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany finalises new Covid restrictions for winter

Bavarian Premier Markus Söder, from Merkel’s conservative camp, and his Baden-Württemberg counterpart Winfried Kretschmann, from the Green party, issued a joint plea for mandatory jabs in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

Society will “pay an ever higher price for a small part of the population” rejecting the vaccine offer, they warned, stressing that mandatory jabs were necessary “to give us back our freedoms”.

Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, gearing up for a stint in the opposition, urged the incoming Scholz-led coalition government to tell the German public where they stood on the issue.

Germany’s weekly incidence rate stood at 404.5 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday, an all-time high, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

By Michelle Fitzpatrick


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