BERLIN ( Associated Press) – Germany’s parliament is set to hold its first debate on a potentially widespread coronavirus vaccine mandate on Wednesday, with three options emerging: compulsory vaccination for all adults or anyone over 50, or none No mandate.
German politicians of all stripes have long insisted there will be no vaccine mandate. But the tide turned late last year amid despair that a large number of holdouts were hindering the fight against COVID-19.
Shortly before becoming chancellor in December, Olaf Scholz came out in favor of a vaccine mandate, predicting it would take effect in February or early March.
That timetable has slipped because of the path Scholz has chosen. The government is not making the law itself, but leaving it to groups of lawmakers to come up with cross-party proposals and then allowing members of parliament to vote according to their discretion rather than across party lines.
The tool that has previously been used to tackle ethically complex medical questions, most recently to decide on rules for organ donors in early 2020.
On Wednesday, MPs are due to begin proceedings with an “orientation debate”. It is not yet clear when the legislation will go to vote, but it appears that it could be well into the spring before any legislation goes into effect.
So far there have been three proposals from lawmakers in Scholz’s three-party governing coalition.
There is a call for a vaccine mandate for everyone aged 18 and over, which would be valid for two years and cover a maximum of three shots, with a penalty for holdouts. A rival proposal has called for mandatory consultation meetings for non-vaccination, if progress is unsatisfactory, to be followed by a vaccine mandate for more than 50. And one group wants to block any mandate.
Exactly how compliance will be checked is not clear. Germany lacks a central vaccination register.
The centre-right Union Bloc, the main opposition party, insisted that the government should make its own laws and complained that Scholz had failed to provide leadership.
Last month, the German parliament approved legislation that would require hospital and nursing home workers to show that they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 by mid-March.
Last week, neighboring Austria became the first European country to approve a vaccine mandate for all adults, which will become law on February 1 and go into effect from mid-March.
Some other European countries have introduced mandates for specific occupations or age groups. Greece has a mandate for over 60 and Italy for over 50.
As of Tuesday, at least 73.5% of Germany’s population had been fully vaccinated and 50.8% had also received a booster. After accelerating last month, the pace of re-vaccination has slowed down.
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