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COVID-19 vaccine mandate must be fully debated, German president says

germany The president on Wednesday called for an in-depth debate on compulsory coronavirus vaccination plans for all adults in the country, saying such a drastic measure must be fully justified.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has backed calls for a vaccination mandate and lawmakers are expected to start debating a bill later this month. Polls show a majority of people in Germany support mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, but a voice minority opposes the idea.

“For my part, I consider it necessary and I will actively campaign for it,” Scholz told lawmakers in parliament in Berlin, adding that not getting the vaccine was not a personal decision as it has consequences for the whole of society.

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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier talks about the pros and cons of compulsory vaccination to overcome the Covid 19 pandemic in Germany at the start of a discussion with guests, as well as digitally connected participants, at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, in Germany, Wednesday, January 12, 2022.
(Bernd von Jutrczenka / dpa via AP)

“There is no decision that you make just for yourself, and that is why compulsory vaccination is also important,” he added.

In a roundtable with citizens on the issue, however, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that “the exceptional situation of a pandemic increases the pressure for the state to act, but it does not replace the obligation to weigh arguments and balance interests. . ”

“A vaccine mandate means a debate mandate,” he added.

Steinmeier, whose role is largely ceremonial, said he would not take sides in the debate, but urged those involved to have “respect for other positions, but also respect for fact and reason, which must be and remain our common currency “.

He dismissed as “completely absurd claims that the coronavirus pandemic has turned Germany into a dictatorship.”

“Among friends, at work, in schools, in daycares, in clinics and retirement homes, in town halls, health offices and parliaments, people all over the world are trying to figure out together what it takes do “to fight the pandemic, Steinmeier said. “And that is exactly the purpose of this democratic struggle.”

Among those debated were a nurse from Cologne and the director of a retirement home in Berlin, both of whom stressed how essential it is to get vaccinated so that the most vulnerable in society – those who are sick and elderly – can be protected against the virus.

A professor of health communication pointed out that many people who refuse to be vaccinated are simply afraid of vaccines. Cornelia Betsch criticized authorities for initially missing many opportunities to better explain how safe and important vaccines are.

“A lot of people are just afraid to get the vaccine and a warrant can create the opposite feelings,” she said, encouraging efforts to reach out to those who are reluctant to get the vaccine.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at the speaker's desk, attends a discussion on the pros and cons of compulsory vaccination to overcome the Covid 19 pandemic in Germany with guests, as well as digitally connected participants, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, January 12, 2022.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at the speaker’s desk, attends a discussion on the pros and cons of compulsory vaccination to overcome the Covid 19 pandemic in Germany with guests, as well as digitally connected participants, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, January 12, 2022.
(Bernd von Jutrczenka / dpa via AP)

About 72.2% of Germans are considered fully vaccinated, while at least 44.2% have received an additional booster.

The German disease control agency reported 80,430 new cases of COVID-19 in one day, a pandemic record and 384 more deaths.

Among those opposing a vaccine mandate are some members of the Free Democrats, who are part of Germany’s ruling coalition, and the former German health minister, who pledged last summer not to not introduce a general vaccine mandate. Political leaders have agreed to let lawmakers vote their own conscience on the issue.

Lawmakers vote to tighten the rules in the Parliament building to fight the coronavirus during a session of the Bundestag of Parliament in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 (AP Photo / Markus Schreiber)

Lawmakers vote to tighten the rules in the Parliament building to fight the coronavirus during a session of the Bundestag of Parliament in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 (AP Photo / Markus Schreiber)
(AP Photo / Markus Schreiber)

The impending tenure has been a rallying point for vocal anti-vaccine campaigners. Some recent protests have turned violent in Germany, with protesters attacking police after being ordered to disperse.

In neighboring Austria, authorities on Wednesday stepped up pressure on unvaccinated people by increasing spot checks in public places and popular stores. On Tuesday, the Vienna police alone checked people’s immunization status 5,100 times and made sure people wore masks outside if social distancing could not be observed.

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