Debate in the Bundestag: That’s what compulsory vaccination is about


Status: 01/26/2022 08:01 a.m

After a long lead time, the Bundestag is now dealing with the difficult issue of general compulsory vaccination for the first time. Three positions stand out – who wants what? And why is this so complicated?

the initial situation

The number of infections is increasing rapidly, the seven-day incidence is reaching new highs every day – the omicron wave has also arrived in Germany. At the same time, the vaccination rate is stagnating. Around 73 percent of people are currently double vaccinated, around half are boosted and thus have the greatest possible immune protection against this virus variant.

What should a general obligation to vaccinate bring?

To put it bluntly: a higher vaccination rate and thus the way out of the pandemic. Because vaccinated people not only protect themselves from infection and serious illness, but also others – including those who cannot be vaccinated. This relieves the health system and the intensive care units. Although the current vaccines do not offer 100% protection against infection (especially not with the omicron variant), the course of the disease is usually less severe.

What speaks against a general obligation to vaccinate?

Also quite a lot. Not only that politicians had initially categorically ruled out compulsory vaccination. This change of opinion may be justified, but a general obligation to vaccinate would in any case be an encroachment on the fundamental right to physical integrity. This fundamental right can only be restricted by law. Since it is an important freedom right against state access, the restriction must be well justified and proportionate.

The Ethics Council and numerous lawyers emphasized that in any case, milder measures must first be exhausted, such as increased advertising for voluntary vaccinations. In addition, it must be ensured that everyone has access to a free vaccination option. The state would also have to prove that compulsory vaccination is effective – a thorny question when the effect wears off quickly and you may have to be re-vaccinated every few months. And if Omicron is really less dangerous, is vaccination really necessary? Especially since it also carries the risk of dividing society. Vaccination opponents are already regularly taking to the streets. However, they are clearly in the minority – the vast majority of people are vaccinated and also support compulsory vaccination.

What vaccinations are there in Germany?

The history of compulsory vaccination in Germany began with smallpox. Vaccination against this viral disease was mandatory for many years until it was considered eradicated. In the GDR, other vaccinations were also mandatory. After decades without compulsory vaccination, measles vaccination came into force on March 1, 2020. Since then, children have had to show proof of immunization against measles when they go to daycare or school. The same applies to the staff of community, educational and medical institutions.

So far, there is only a mandatory corona vaccination in the Bundeswehr. From mid-March, however, staff in healthcare and nursing facilities must also be vaccinated against Corona.

What is the legislative process like?

So far, there is no legal basis for a general obligation to vaccinate against the coronavirus. The Infection Protection Act can only order vaccinations for “threatened parts of the population”. The Bundestag would have to decide on a general obligation to vaccinate. The whole thing is delayed, however, because the government does not want to submit its own draft law and the members of the Bundestag are to decide without being forced to belong to a parliamentary group and are to submit their own group proposals. There is a first orientation debate on this in Parliament today. Such debates have so far existed on topics such as organ donation or euthanasia, i.e. above all on fundamental ethical issues. By allowing the traffic light government to vote on compulsory vaccination, it is also concealing its own disagreement on the subject.

What proposals are on the table?

Three models emerge – for, against and a middle ground. The positions in detail:

General vaccination requirement from 18:

A group of MPs from the three traffic light groups favors general vaccination for everyone over the age of 18. The aim is to find a “sustainable, proportionate and at the same time targeted solution,” according to a letter from the initiators to the other MPs – except for those of the AfD. The group, which includes SPD parliamentary group leader Dirk Wiese, Green health politician Janosch Dahmen and Katrin Helling-Plahr from the FDP, only wants to present its draft law after the orientation debate. According to the ideas of the initiators, the obligation to vaccinate should be limited, a period of one to two years is under discussion. It should be valid for three doses.

Failure to comply will result in a fine. Dahmen envisages a height “in the middle three-digit range”. Before this sum is due, however, the unvaccinated Dahmen should be given a period of about six weeks to catch up on the vaccination – in case of doubt, fines could be imposed several times.

Vaccination obligation from 50:

A group led by the FDP parliamentarian Andrew Ullmann proposes compulsory vaccination for people over 50. Doctor Ullmann argues that those who are younger and not previously ill put little strain on the hospitals. The group of FDP and Green MPs proposes a phased model, at the beginning of which there should be a mandatory doctor’s consultation for all unvaccinated adults. Only if the necessary vaccination rate is not achieved through this awareness campaign should vaccination be compulsory for people over 50 years of age. In this way, “a maximum effect” should be achieved with a milder state intervention. Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) also has sympathies for compulsory vaccination from the age of 50.

No to compulsory vaccination:

Although politicians across all camps have long opposed any compulsory vaccination, this position is now only openly held by a few. Spokesman is the deputy leader of the FDP, Wolfgang Kubicki. The Vice President of the Bundestag intends to submit a corresponding application to the Bundestag. In a submission from the end of last year, reference is made, among other things, to the “unresolved questions regarding the duration and scope of protection of a vaccination”. The obligation to vaccinate is a “deep encroachment on fundamental rights” with which the current wave of infections cannot be broken anyway, argues Kubicki.

What is the opinion in the parties?

So far, representatives of SPD and greens pronounced. the PDF in the Bundestag is cautious. There are cautious voices in favor of expanding facility-related vaccination requirements, but possibly only for certain groups. But there are also many critics of compulsory vaccination.

In CDU and CSU there are supporters of compulsory vaccination, but the opinion of the entire group is uncertain. the AfD is against any compulsory vaccination. The party The left had spoken out in favor of compulsory vaccination for all adults at the end of November. In view of the new Omikron variant, however, representatives have since expressed more restraint again.

what is the schedule

This afternoon, the Bundestag will discuss compulsory vaccination in a three-hour orientation debate. After that, the various motions are to be worked out, which could then be discussed in the plenum for the first time in the week of the session starting on February 14th. A month later – in the following week of the session – the legislative decision would then be possible.

So far it is unclear when and in what way the countries will be brought in to do so. Your support is needed because the law also has to pass the Bundesrat. In order to avoid a lengthy conciliation procedure, the Bundestag would have to reach an agreement with the federal states before passing the law. They will pay meticulous attention to how compulsory vaccination should be implemented – because they are likely to play an important role in this.

If the Bundestag decides to make vaccination compulsory, it could come into force in July or August. Before that, unvaccinated people would have to be given enough time for a full vaccination, i.e. around six weeks (without booster vaccination). In any case, compulsory vaccination would be too late for the omicron wave, but it can help to avoid high numbers of infections in autumn.

How would you enforce compulsory vaccination?

With the toleration obligation in the Bundeswehr and the vaccination obligation for facilities in the health and care sector, there are operational consequences if employees do not have themselves vaccinated. A fine is under discussion for the general obligation to vaccinate. There is agreement that vaccination should be ruled out, i.e. the administration of the vaccine with physical force in case of doubt.

It is also unclear whether a vaccination register should be introduced, with the help of which the state enforces the obligation. The Ethics Council had named this as a prerequisite for compulsory vaccination. The Union faction also recently spoke out in favor of this. The traffic light parties, on the other hand, are skeptical that the introduction will take too long and is not uncontroversial in terms of data protection law. If there were an obligation without a register, it is still unclear how and who should monitor compliance with the vaccination obligation. It would be conceivable that health insurance companies or municipalities that have the registration data would ask citizens to provide proof of their vaccination.

How are other countries doing it?

Austria was the first EU country to make vaccination compulsory. This means that from the beginning of February, the corona vaccination will be mandatory for everyone over the age of 18, otherwise there will be fines of up to 3,600 euros from mid-March. The country also has a national vaccination registry.

Italy recently introduced compulsory vaccination for people over 50. Those who do not get vaccinated must pay a fine of 100 euros or more. Occupational vaccinations have been compulsory there since last year. For example, doctors or employees from old people’s homes who do not want to be vaccinated are suspended.

Greece on the other hand, relies on compulsory vaccination for over 60-year-olds, and there is a compulsory vaccination for employees in certain professions in, among other places France and Great Britain.

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