Scholz cannot keep promise of mandatory vaccination

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Mon 10th Jan, 2022

The goal set by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) of introducing compulsory vaccination by March at the latest can no longer be maintained. The Tagesspiegel has learned this from coalition circles. One reason is the timetable of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, the other are complicated legal issues and increased need for consultation among the traffic light parties.

Scholz had said on ZDF television at the end of November that a general vaccination requirement should apply to everyone in Germany "from the beginning of February, the beginning of March." Probably on January 26 or 27, there will first be a comprehensive orientation debate in the Bundestag.

Due to Carnival, only one session week is scheduled for February, so the earliest a decision can be made is the week starting March 14. Since the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament does not meet again until April 8, the project cannot be finally approved until then, according to the current schedule.

This means that it could hardly come into force before the beginning of May without special sessions. If, in addition, a central vaccination register with data on all vaccinated persons is to be set up for the enforcement of the obligation, the vaccination obligation could also only come into force in June.

At present, various special campaigns are being carried out in an attempt to increase the number of first-time vaccinations. Scholz had already clearly missed the target of 80 percent in Germany having received at least one vaccination by January 7; the rate is just under 75 percent.

Dirk Wiese, the deputy parliamentary group leader responsible for the compulsory vaccination project in the SPD parliamentary group, said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel: "We should bring the deliberations in the Bundestag to a conclusion in the 1st quarter" - the first quarter ends at the end of March. That, he said, is a challenging schedule, "since we only have one session week, especially in February."

With regard to possible delays, Wiese stressed that the vaccination requirement does not have a short-term effect anyway, but is "in perspective a precaution for the coming fall and winter." Scholz had on Friday after the federal-state round on new Corona measures dodged all questions about whether he must cash in on his promise and referred to the German Bundestag in terms of timing.

North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister-President Hendrik Wüst (CDU) said after the Corona summit, referring to Scholz and the uncertainty over the timetable for mandatory vaccination, "We need speed and also leadership on this issue." However, he did not address the fact that scheduling in the Bundesrat could also delay the project.

FDP slows down - compulsory vaccination only for over-50s?

In the Union, it is speculated that just the FDP, which sees the project increasingly critical, could try to delay a vaccination obligation, if the situation could improve and turn into endemic, the pressure to abandon a vaccination obligation is likely to grow.

It is likely that the traffic light coalition will not have a majority of its own for introduction - hence the decision has been declared a conscience vote; however, with the help of votes from the CDU/CSU, among others, a majority is considered very likely.

One variant is also that there could only be an age-dependent vaccination requirement and not a general one from the age of 18. This is suggested by FDP health politician Andrew Ullmann, who points to the example of Italy.

There, a vaccination obligation for over 50-year-olds came into force on Saturday. For him, it is important "that as soon as the situation changes and the virus becomes endemic, the debate on compulsory vaccination becomes superfluous," he told. The yardstick for action, he said, should not be infection figures, but disease figures.

Discussions on data protection for vaccination register

SPD faction vice-chairman Wiese stressed that after the important statement of the German Ethics Council on the introduction of a general vaccination obligation, "we will use January to facilitate a broad debate in intensive discussions with experts, in the faction, in the constituencies and in an orientation debate in parliament."

In the coming week, the SPD parliamentary group will first seek talks with members of the Ethics Council, with the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, and with lawyers. "For important questions of detail, such as the necessity or need for a vaccination register, we want to have a thorough debate."

There is an agreement, at least among the federal and state governments, that mandatory vaccination should continue to come. "I think it is right that the chancellor and the state premiers have unanimously spoken out in favor of a general vaccination requirement," Berlin's Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) told the Tagesspiegel.

The Bundestag had already decided last year to make vaccination compulsory for the staff of institutions where people, particularly at risk from Covid-19, are cared for, treated, or looked after. This obligation, which is essentially limited to healthcare and nursing, will apply from mid-March.

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