Merkel airs support for compulsory Covid jabs ahead of vote

Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her support for mandatory Covid jabs as federal and state leaders agree to put the move to a vote in parliament.

Merkel and state leaders
Angela Merkel leaves a press conference alongside Olaf Scholz (SPD) and the state leaders. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AFP-Pool | John Macdougall

It comes as state and federal leaders unite on a series of fresh measures to tame the Covid fourth wave over winter.

These include blanket ‘2G’ in culture, gastronomy and non-essential shops, new provisions to allow for regional lockdowns and strict contact restrictions for the unvaccinated.

Ministers have also agreed to hold a vote on whether Germany should bring in a vaccine mandate early next year.

READ ALSO: Germany to impose sweeping new Covid curbs on the unvaccinated

This would ensure that every person eligible to get a jab would be legally obliged to get their initial doses and regular boosters. 

When asked whether she was in favour of such a move, Merkel said she had hoped that more people would get their shots willingly, but “at this point” in the pandemic, she supported it. 

“Covid vaccination had been advertised on all channels, but there are still gaps in coverage, and on a regional level the health system is overloaded,” she said. Pointing to the particularly aggressive Delta variant, she explained that it hadn’t been possible to achieve herd immunity with such a low vaccination rate.

“Given the situation, it’s necessary to make vaccination compulsory,” she added.

As of Thursday, 68.7 percent of the population was fully jabbed in Germany. Vaccination among Germans and their German-speaking neighbours has tended to lag behind other countries in western Europe. 

READ ALSO: Why is German-speaking Europe lagging on Covid vaccines?

Mandatory jabs ‘by February 2022’

Following the meeting of the state and federal government leaders on Thursday, ministers will ask the Ethics Council for a recommendation on the subject by the end of the year.

Parliament will then hold a vote on the matter with a view to introducing the news measure in February 2022. 

According to incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), due to the sensitive nature of the issue, MPs will be allowed to vote with their conscience, rather than following party lines, when mandatory jabs are put to a vote. 

Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz
Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz leave a press conference following a meeting of state and federal leaders on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AFP-Pool | John Macdougall

Speaking at the press conference on Thursday, the outgoing Chancellor said that if she were still in the Bundestag, she would vote in favour of the plans.

“I would cast my vote in favour of compulsory vaccination at this point,” she said.

Merkel is due to hand over to her successor Scholz on December 8th.

She has stayed on in a caretaker capacity since the federal elections on September 26th, 2021, but no longer sits in the Bundestag as an MP. 

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German vaccine commission ‘to recommend fourth Covid jab for over 60s’

Germany's Permanent Vaccination Commission (Stiko) is set to recommend that all people over 60 get a booster jab against the coronavirus, according to a report in Bild newspaper.

German vaccine commission 'to recommend fourth Covid jab for over 60s'

While the report has not yet been officially confirmed, Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Twitter on Monday: “Thanks to the #Stiko that the recommendation of a 4th vaccination is now coming for the over 60 age group.”

Lauterbach, who has advised that all adults get a fourth jab, added that this was an “important step” in the right direction.

People over 60 should not wait for an adjusted Omicron vaccine, Lauterbach said in his tweet Monday. “The risk is already there. Existing vaccines protect against severe disease.”

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s disease prevention agency, did not immediately comment on the report.

According to Bild, a precondition for getting a fourth jab is that the first booster jab, or the person’s last bout of Covid was at least six months ago.

Up until now, Stiko has only recommended the second booster for people over 70 years of age, people in care facilities, people with immune deficiencies and those with an increased risk of severe Covid 19 symptoms, as well as staff in medical facilities and nursing homes.

The European Medical Agency (EMA) has previously called on member states to offer second booster jabs to people over 60. Lauterbach had also repeatedly brought a second booster for broader population groups into the discussion. 

READ ALSO: Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister