Bundestag debate on compulsory vaccination: politics of doubt

To analyse

As of: 01/26/2022 9:22 p.m

In the orientation debate on compulsory vaccination, it becomes clear how divided the traffic light itself is about it. A cross-party consensus or a majority for a vaccination model was not yet noticeable.

An analysis by Corinna Emundts, tagesschau.de

Where is Karl Lauterbach actually, one thought about the three hours of the debate on compulsory vaccination in the Bundestag – and not only with a view to his empty seat on the cabinet ranks, where Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for example, sat at least temporarily. Lauterbach would certainly have liked to use his expertise to contradict many incorrect factual claims, especially on the part of the AfD. That’s what you’re used to from his appearances on talk shows.

Corinna Emundts

Lauterbach was there, but almost hidden in the plenum, mostly busy with his mobile phone and held back for a long time. After all, it should be the hour of parliament and not of those in government. It was only almost at the end of the orientation debate scheduled for today that he came to the lectern to give a short speech again to promote the general obligation to vaccinate him – but only in the role of SPD MP and not as Minister of Health.

Corona pandemic: Bundestag debate on general compulsory vaccination

1/26/2022 8:07 p.m

“No way out of the pandemic without compulsory vaccination”

Lauterbach contradicted the hope expressed in the previous debate that the milder omicron wave could lead to a way out of the pandemic without compulsory vaccination. Unfortunately, that is not the case: “I know almost no scientist who said that the omicron variant would be the last one we have to reckon with.”

Rather, he is afraid of a “recombined variant” that is as contagious as Omicron, but can produce a severe course like Delta. And for that, the compulsory vaccination that has now been decided is needed in order to be prepared for the coming autumn: “We won’t get any further by pushing the problem before us”. “The children, the nursing staff, the doctors and the endangered and burdened people” can no longer be expected to do that. “We have to act,” he called out to the plenum.

What is special about this appearance is that Lauterbach also has to win over members of the traffic light factions with this passionately expressed appeal if he wants to enforce compulsory vaccination.

The debate with more than two dozen speakers, including some doctors, showed little agreement, even within the traffic light coalition. As another member of the government, FDP politician Marco Buschmann had previously spoken out about compulsory vaccination, but with the confession that he did not yet have a final opinion. And “as a lawyer” he vehemently advocated further examining milder measures first: You would have to ask yourself whether the protection of the health system was possible with milder means than compulsory vaccination.

Maybe that’s something that sticks with this first big orientation round: Many MPs expressed doubts about the proportionality or enforceability of a general vaccination requirement from the age of 18.

Traffic light makes it easy for the opposition this time

And the voices in the Union, which were open to it – although the CDU Minister of Health Jens Spahn, who previously ruled during the pandemic, had always ruled out compulsory vaccination, expressed doubts and found too few questions from the traffic lights really answered. Certainly partisan politically motivated tactics of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, which is now practicing in the role of the largest opposition party, driving the traffic lights in front of them.

But in fact, the deputies of the traffic light coalition made it easy for the new opposition party with their very divided impression – they advertised very different models, from the Lauterbach model to age-restricted vaccination and a pure obligation to provide advice for the unvaccinated.

At the same time, it was noticeable that Chancellor Scholz’s wish to achieve a cross-party majority by means of a pure conscience decision cannot currently be implemented. So far, the Union has shown little willingness to do him this favor.

And that distinguishes this debate from previous Bundestag debates in which party discipline was abolished – such as in organ transplants or euthanasia. Or at that time under red-green the debates on embryonic stem cell research. There is no consensus that party lines should not apply here.

For the time being, it seems to remain an internal traffic light debate as to which is the most appropriate and proportionate way to achieve a high vaccination rate and basic immunity. After all, most of the deputies agreed in their speeches about this goal at least – quite cross-party and also beyond the traffic light coalition.


Leave a Comment