Germany’s plans to introduce a general vaccination mandate this spring are faltering, as a growing number of politicians question if it will find a majority in parliament.
The Bundestag was originally due to debate motions in favour and against mandatory vaccinations this week, after the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, indicated he considered such a step necessary to cope with a possible resurgence of the virus in the next few months.
But the timetable that was meant to see a mandate passed in March has already begun to slip, as a Free Democratic party (FDP) politician said his third-way motion proposing mandatory vaccinations for those aged 50 and over would be submitted with a delay.
The three motions may now not get their second and third reading until the end of March, when Germany’s high infection rates are forecast to be on a downward curve and the government is preparing to loosen restrictions on social gatherings and access to nonessential shops, according to reports in German media on Monday.
National and state leaders are set to discuss the opening-up plan on Wednesday, as Germany’s disease control agency reported 76,465 new cases in the last 24 hours, the second consecutive day of declining incidence rates.
As of Monday, almost 75% of Germany’s population had received at least two shots of vaccines, while 55% had also received a booster shot.
A change of heart on behalf of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) looks set to further stymie any law making jabs mandatory in the immediate future.
The party of former chancellor Angela Merkel, now in opposition, on Friday submitted its own proposal for a tiered “vaccination mechanism” that would make jabs mandatory only if required by the severity of further variants.
“Plans for a vaccination mandate from age 18 or 50 are illusory solutions that won’t find a majority in the Bundestag,” said the CDU’s health spokesperson, Tino Sorge.
The leader of the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, Markus Söder of the Christian Social Union (CSU), meanwhile, announced last week he would not enforce compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 for nursing staff in institutions such as hospitals and care homes from mid-March, as originally planned, citing fears of staff shortages as unvaccinated care workers could leave Germany’s southernmost state.
With political momentum behind a swift implementation fading and the cross-party consensus on a joint motion crumbling “the general vaccination mandate is dead, at least for the foreseeable future”, wrote the Taz newspaper.
Questions about the effectiveness of mandatory vaccinations are also raised by the situation in Austria, where vaccinations have been mandatory since 5 February but are not yet enforced systematically.
In the mandate’s first week, 101,499 doses of vaccine were administered in the Alpine state – almost half as many as the week before – a trend that could also be explained by holidays in the populous states of Vienna and Lower Austria.
Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said on Sunday that his government could scrap the law if its expert advisory committee decided the measure was no longer appropriate.