Germany’s ethics council rules on mandatory vaccination

Germany’s leading ethics body has supported the idea of extending mandatory coronavirus vaccination to all adults, stressing, however, that direct coercion and use of “physical violence” on the unvaccinated must remain off-limits.

The country’s Ethics Council said Wednesday it was in favor of rolling out mandatory Covid jabs for all aged 18 and above. The council is an independent body, established under the federal government and the Bundestag, and provides advice on legal, ethical, social and scientific issues in Germany.

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The idea of compulsory inoculation against Covid-19 was supported by a narrow majority of the body’s members, 13 out of 24, while a more moderate expansion of the existing vaccination mandate received the support of 20 of the experts. Currently, Germany has a mandate in place only for certain groups of healthcare workers.

High vaccination rates are crucial for controlling the pandemic, the council stated, noting that “the German healthcare system is reaching its limits in many places.”

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“Viral variants such as Omicron and expected further variants of the virus are forcing experts to constantly reassess their estimates of the future course of the pandemic,” the body added.

At the same time, the council warned that mandatory vaccination – or a broader vaccine mandate – are not a “panacea” to fix the coronavirus situation. Ramping up vaccination can “only be justified if it is able to mitigate or prevent serious negative consequences of possible future pandemic waves.” It also should come alongside other measures – namely a broad, easy-to-understand information campaign to promote taking a jab, the council stressed.

“Compulsory vaccination cannot break the current fourth wave in the short term. Similarly, mandatory vaccination cannot be a panacea for the pandemic; it can only be considered as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based, differentiated and forward-looking overall pandemic strategy,” it said.

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When implementing mandatory vaccination, the authorities should also work to avoid pitting “vaccinated and non-vaccinated people” against each other. Moreover, the compulsory jab must not turn into a coercive one, and any use of “physical violence” against those reluctant to take a jab must remain off-limits, the council warned.

While the council has persistently opposed the idea of rolling-out mandatory vaccination over the course of the pandemic, it had a change of heart, as the country is facing a fourth wave of infections in the ongoing pandemic. On the emergence of the new Omicron strain, the ethics body was tasked by the country’s authorities with re-assessment of the issue.

Germany’s authorities have already announced new coronavirus-related restrictions, set to take effect on December 28 ahead of New Year's Eve festivities.

The measures include closure of night-time venues, barring spectators from sporting and cultural events, and limiting private parties to 10 vaccinated or recovered people in attendance.

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