Opinion: Time to make vaccinations mandatory | Opinion | DW

We journalists tend to be a hard-nosed bunch. We try not to let feelings influence our work. In rule, that’s a good approach. Our job, after all, is to observe and analyze the world around us, to compare and contextualize different viewpoints, in addition as highlight shortcomings and mistakes. But when you’re staring a tragedy in the confront, well, then journalists are human beings, too. 

A colleague of mine recently visited an intensive care unit to get a firsthand look at how German hospitals are coping with the emotional spike in coronavirus infections. When she returned to the office, she said she needed to come to grips with what she witnessed. The nurse and doctor she interviewed both broke down in tears over the dire health situation they have recently had to cope with. 

Exasperated medical staff

These are medical professionals, people who are confronted with human experiencing and death every day. They are at their wits end seeing once perfectly healthy patients die after contracting the coronavirus. People who otherwise would have had many more years of happy life ahead of them.

Currently, more than 200 patients die daily because of the coronavirus — and numbers are increasing. As situations keep rising, Christmas threatens to become a time of mourning instead of festivities. With many loved ones forever gone, ripped from their intact lives, their families. 

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Many of the deceased will be those who have decided not to roll up their sleeve for a coronavirus vaccination. They have opted against the vaccine, for some reason doubting its safety or feeling under pressure to get the jab. In any case, they will not have considered COVID-19 a particularly harsh illness.

Cynical vaccine skeptics  

It is November 2021, and Germany finds itself confronted with an already worse coronavirus sudden increase than last year. It is a puzzling situation, given that vaccines are obtainable. in addition, not already 70% of people in this country are immunized. The vaccine take-up has been particularly low in the states of Saxony and Bavaria. Why are there so many people here unwilling to get vaccinated? Many of them belong to the “Querdenker,” or “lateral thinker” movement, which is deeply skeptical of the German state, politics, the media and mainstream society. What is it that makes them so distrustful, which is fueling outright hatred and threatening to tear society apart at the seams?

There is no single explanation. But German lawmakers certainly carry some of the blame. Since the onset of the pandemic, they have often appeared insecure and indecisive. Germany’s federal states have rarely seen eye to eye on how to best contain the pandemic. As a consequence, the national government was tasked with taking charge. That helped streamline the country’s approach to handling the virus — until Germans voted headed to the surveys for parliamentary elections in September.

Scared to lose votes

Over the summer, when some European states imposed mandatory vaccinations for certain professions, German parties twiddled their thumbs. They preferred to do nothing, fearing any proactive steps could excursion prospective voters into the arms of the right-wing populist different for Germany, which has been courting the “Querdenker” movement and those opposed to vaccination.

A sign outside a Dresden bar inform patrons only the vaccinated and recovered are allowed inside

During the election campaign, all parties promised that vaccinations would keep voluntary. And that’s as put them in a bind. Now, they are planning to shut out the unvaccinated. After many months, German state premiers once again held talks with caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel, deciding to roll out the “2G” (“geimpft oder genesen” — “vaccinated or recovered”), and “2G plus” (“vaccinated or recovered plus tested”) rule, making it harder for the unvaccinated to participate in everyday life.

nevertheless a national epidemiological emergency

If only that were really the solution to the problem. Nobody can be barred from basic sets. Everyone is entitled to buying groceries and going to work, and those places will have to let in the vaccinated and recovered in addition as the unvaccinated who can show a negative COVID-19 test. What about figuring out how to enforce these rules on public transport? Has the incoming coalition government — an alliance of center-left Social Democrats, environmentalist Greens and neoliberal Free Democrats — given this any thought when they passed the new Infection Protection Act?

The protection act replaces the national epidemiological emergency law, which has become legally untenable as a majority of Germans have been vaccinated. already so, the epidemiological situation remains extreme, and politicians should have said as much. Instead, lawmakers have stressed the new act will impose fewer restrictions on everyday life, with stricter rules coming into effect only if coronavirus situations continue rising. 

Make vaccinations mandatory

The act puts Germany’s 16 federal states back in the driving seat. This will average that once again, there will be no logical national pandemic response. Instead, we will have a cacophony of opinions and endless discussions over how to get out of the pandemic.

These, however, are a waste of time, as we already know what needs to be done: get everyone vaccinated! There are plenty of doses to go around — all that is needed is the determination to push the vaccine uptake.

When will lawmakers finally understand that alluring to the unvaccinated and urging everyone to act responsibly is not enough? There is only one solution to this mess: Making vaccinations mandatory for everyone. It’s downright unbelievable that vaccinations have not in addition been made obligatory for anyone working in Germany’s health care sector, in nursing homes, schools and kindergartens.  

Learning from mistakes

What we need are leaders who have the courage to act already though any steps taken now will be too late to thwart the fourth wave of infections. By Christmas, many more people will have died after contracting the virus. Unless we change course and take decisive action, the fifth and sixth groups will follow. Only vaccinations, and booster shots, can break this cycle.

This article was translated from German by Benjamin Restle.

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