Home Health Corona: Is vaccination mandatory? Chancellor Olaf Scholz under pressure

Corona: Is vaccination mandatory? Chancellor Olaf Scholz under pressure

 Corona: Is vaccination mandatory?  Chancellor Olaf Scholz under pressure

Olaf Scholz wanted to introduce compulsory vaccination by March at the latest. But in view of the Omnikron infection, doubts about the project are also growing in the government. Will the planned law tip over? On Thursday afternoon, Karl Lauterbach completed one of his basic exercises during the corona pandemic: he repeated himself. This time he did not repeat his warning of further waves or his call for masks to be worn – but his appeal for compulsory vaccination. Wearing a blue pullover and a white shirt, he stood at the lectern in the Bundestag and said: “The safest way to end the pandemic” is the “introduction of general compulsory vaccination”. But even in the repetition, Lauterbach remained general. And thus delivered a through ball for the opposition. When the CDU MP Tino Sorge went to the lectern immediately after the Minister of Health, he started: “You didn’t say: Is that the opinion of the minister? Is that the opinion of MP Karl Lauterbach?” It was an attack that was to be expected, but it hits the problem of the current traffic light government: yes, they are in favor of compulsory vaccination, even for a long time. But there is disagreement about what this compulsory vaccination should look like or how it should be decided at all. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said so far that he is in favor and also wants to vote for it as a member of parliament. Several members of the traffic light coalition make similar statements. What is missing, however, is a concrete draft law. Neither Scholz nor his Minister of Health want to present it. Instead, the traffic light coalition is now relying on group applications from members of the Bundestag. The idea behind it: The parliamentarians should consider what kind of vaccination they want to vote for – and then pass it as a law. Above all, they should be free from any party or faction affiliation. Because the coalition has declared the possible vote a “conscientious decision”. Olaf Scholz had said in November that compulsory vaccination would be correct from “beginning of February, beginning of March”. It is already clear that nothing will come of it. But it’s not just the schedule that’s faltering. Two reasons could lead to the fact that the vaccination obligation does not come at all in the end.

The crux with the detention

It is quite unclear what the vaccination requirement should look like. That is the first and most important reason. Should all citizens be forced to be vaccinated? How many vaccinations should the obligation include? Two? Three? Or even four? Does the obligation to vaccinate also apply to those who have recovered? Will there soon be “milder means” anyway, i.e. less severe interventions in people’s lives that will also end the pandemic? For example good medicines? How likely is another mutation – and does compulsory vaccination with the current vaccines help? There is also a lack of clarity about possible consequences. On the one hand, the core of a legal obligation is to force citizens to act. On the other hand, the government has already ruled out the possibility of a so-called “preventive detention” being ordered if those who refuse to vaccinate do not want to pay the fine that is then imposed. But what happens instead?

Karl Lauterbach: The Minister of Health wants vaccinations to be mandatory. (Source: Political Moments/imago images)

The MPs wrestle with each other across all factions about all these questions. Which party you belong to is often irrelevant for your own position. More and more parliamentarians doubt whether a majority consensus can be found at all – the positions are too different. In the end, there could simply be too many different group proposals. The second reason why the planned compulsory vaccination is faltering is the dominance of the omicron variant. According to the Robert Koch Institute, there is now a record for corona infections, and the World Health Organization expects that more than half of the people in Europe could have been infected with omicron in six to eight weeks. And it turns out that the variant does not necessarily lead to a severe course, on the contrary: many infections are only accompanied by mild symptoms. Because this variant is spreading so rapidly, some scientists are already saying that an endemic situation is emerging. So why do we still need vaccinations? It’s complicated. Does the vaccination requirement wobble after all? In the end, it will depend on enough MEPs gathering behind a motion. Which could get complicated enough. Because the proverbial devil is in the detail.

Scholz: Unbureaucratic and from 18

Olaf Scholz made a commitment on Wednesday – and thus in fact a large part of his SPD. Because that would damage your chancellor enormously if the majority of you didn’t follow his line. In the Bundestag, Scholz said that he thought it was right for “all adults” to be vaccinated. A “solution that is as unbureaucratic as possible” should be found for this.

The “unbureaucratic” is interpreted in faction circles as a rejection of a vaccination register. In other words, a list on which the vaccination status of each person subject to vaccination would be noted. And there lurks the first dispute over a fairly large detail. Because in the Union, many are demanding just such a vaccination register. Without it, a duty cannot be strictly controlled.

However, such a register would also create a new, delicate bureaucracy with sensitive health data. That could deter not only opponents of vaccination, but also supporters, according to an argument from the SPD. Would enough MEPs who are generally in favor of compulsory vaccination agree to a group application without a vaccination register? And do enough SPD MPs do it at all? Because even with them it is not just the Scholz position that can be found. The good news for the chancellor: support is emerging in the ranks of the Greens. There, according to reports, MPs want to participate in an application for compulsory vaccination from the age of 18. Among others, the high-profile health politician Janosch Dahmen and the legal expert Till Steffen are currently working on it. However, not everyone is likely to support the motion here either.

The double FDP

In no government faction are the attitudes as different as in the FDP. According to government circles, the Liberals in particular are responsible for the fact that the traffic lights have not submitted a draft law. During the election campaign, party leader Christian Lindner warned against discrimination against the unvaccinated. Now he is open to compulsory vaccination – and said so a few weeks ago. The party now says that Lindner “jumped too far too soon”. Recently, the top liberal declared again restrictively: “I’m no longer against it in principle.” And: “But I’m not positive either.”

Sounds more like a course search than a decision. Others are already further along, for example FDP Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki. He has submitted the only motion so far in Parliament that speaks out against compulsory vaccination. The application has only been signed by a good two dozen MPs, some of them from the Union. But the number of skeptics is growing. The MP Jens Beeck says, for example, that it is not yet certain how long the effect of the booster vaccination will last and how many of them will be needed: “Therefore, in my view, there is currently no sufficient basis for the introduction of a statutory vaccination requirement.” Wolfgang Kubicki: He’s against it. (Source: Political Moments/imago images)

Martin Hagen, Bavarian FDP leader and member of the federal executive board, says: “Vaccination is advisable for everyone. But the risk of an unvaccinated 20- or 30-year-old going to the intensive care unit is still lower than the risk of a vaccinated 70 – or 80-year-olds. So compulsory vaccination for young people would not have a noticeable effect on the intensive care units.”

It is the position that is being discussed in political Berlin as the Ullmann Line, after its originator, the FDP health politician Andrew Ullmann. In summary, it is as follows: compulsory vaccination, yes, but only for people over 50 years of age. This line is not only popular with FDP MPs, it is said at the moment. The proposal could thus split the camp of those in favor of compulsory vaccination – and make it difficult to find a majority.

Under observation

Because at least three rough lines are already emerging, within which there should be further dispute over details, think of the vaccination register:

  • The Kubicki line, i.e. the general rejection of compulsory vaccination
  • The Scholz line, i.e. compulsory vaccination for adults
  • And the Ullmann line, i.e. compulsory vaccination from the age of 50
  • The whole thing is most complicated for the FDP, because they emphasize the issue of freedom the most. If the party had the choice between a recurring lockdown and mandatory vaccination, it would probably be easier for them to do the latter. But the moderate occupancy of the intensive care beds despite a record incidence makes many flirt with waiving the obligation to vaccinate. However, some current skeptics are also aware of the fundamental political risk: if a variant were to appear in the autumn against which compulsory vaccination would have helped and a decision had now been made against it, the political damage would be gigantic. Someone from the leadership of the party therefore makes a compromise proposal: “We could also decide on vaccination that only applies in the event that there are new, more dangerous mutants – and we have a corresponding vaccine against them.” It would be another dispute over details that would not make the discussion any easier.

    Months will pass

    What is already clear is that it will be many months before compulsory vaccination can really take effect. The MPs are to exchange ideas at the end of January in a so-called orientation debate. In February, the SPD hopes, a majority will then gather behind a group motion. The Bundestag could then pass the law at the end of March. And then the Federal Council still has to agree. But afterwards, according to the SPD, people should still have enough time to get vaccinated, said the parliamentary director of the party, Katja Mast, this week. As a model, she cited the procedure for facility-related compulsory vaccination. The Bundestag had decided in mid-December. It should take effect from mid-March. So three months later. For the general obligation to vaccinate, that would mean: the end of June. Assuming there is any majority at all.

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