German vaccine mandates - the timeline
This is how and when vaccine mandates could become a reality in Germany.
The essentials on compulsory vaccines. What is the government planning, when will the Bundestag debate it, and how are the parties likely to vote?
I thought it might be useful to update you in today’s members’ article on plans to bring in compulsory vaccinations, as these have been dominating the news this Wednesday.
Olaf Scholz made his first speech in the Bundestag today as Chancellor, where he put forward the case for compulsory Covid vaccines for all adults.
Getting vaccinated is "not a decision you make just for yourself, and that's why compulsory vaccination is the right thing to do", he said. He argued that vaccinations slow down the transmission of the virus and thus getting jabbed means “protecting 80 million fellow citizens.”
Suffice to say, not everyone in Germany agrees with this point of view. Concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of the vaccines to deal with the latest iteration of the virus, the practicality of continually vaccinating 70 million people, and the potential for further societal polarization as a result.
That said, surveys show wide public support for such a measure.
So, what lies ahead?
How will the vaccine mandates become law?
Scholz has previously promised that the final vote on whether to make vaccines compulsory will be a free one - i.e. MdBs won’t be whipped into voting along party lines. The last time that this happened was on gay marriage in 2017, when Angela Merkel announced a free vote (she voted against but was on the losing side).
On Wednesday, Scholz added another detail. The draft law won’t even be written by his government but will be the product of a collective effort in parliament. This will contribute to a "calming of the political debate" and is an example of "democratic leadership," he claimed. His intention is presumably to avoid a situation in which the opposition vote against or abstain based on a technicality.
What are the next steps?
Social Democrat (SPD) faction leader in the Bundestag, Rolf Mützenich, laid out a rough timetable today.
There will be an Orientierungsdebatte (preliminary debate) on the issue in two weeks time. During this debate the SPD will put forward the key points of a draft law.
All of the parties will then be invited to flesh out these points into a robust piece of legislation.
A final vote will happen within the next two months. “We’ll have it finished in March, most definitely,” pledged Mützenich.
The CDU/CSU have been giving off mixed signals over whether they are prepared to work together with the SPD on writing up a common piece of legislation. Health spokesman Stephan Pilsinger (CSU) said he expects the government to put forward a “legally sound, implementable and controllable” draft law that his party can then evaluate. But CDU faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus said his party were “ready” for talks with the government.
What is the law likely to look like?
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has said that he doesn’t want to create a central register that would contain details on all 82 million inhabitants of Germany and their vaccine status. His reasons for not wanting to do this are clear: it would be costly and time consuming.
What is the alternative though? How and where will the state control whether people have been vaccinated or not? We will only learn of a possible answer when the SPD open the preliminary debate in a couple of weeks time.
What seems clear is that transgressors will face fines rather than more severe punishments such as jail.
How likely is it that such a law will be enacted?
There is almost certainly a majority in the Bundestag for a general vaccine mandate for all adults.
The AfD will probably all vote against, but that is only 83 seats from a total of 736.
The liberal FDP are likely to be divided on the issue, with 20 of their MdBs already confirming they will reject the law.
Both the SDP and the CDU/CSU should have large majorities in favour
The Greens will be interesting to watch, as a core demographic for them are Waldorf school-educated middle classes who are sceptical of vaccines. At the same time, a recent survey suggested that two thirds of their voters want vaccines to be made compulsory.
I’ll give a more detailed analysis of this issue as it progresses through the Bundestag, but I hope this rough overview helps.