Due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, COVID-19 infection in Germany hit a record 164,000 cases per day in January 2022. In response, lawmakers in the Bundestag, the German parliament, has begun debating a nationwide vaccination mandate.
Germany’s fractured vaccine debate seems reminiscent of fissures sowing discord in the U.S. political climate: Tino Chrupalla, the co-chair of the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), warned that such pandemic restrictions would “destroy the constitution,” and protesters turned to the argument to decry what they saw as government overreach. Others argue that the mandate is essential in the current state of the pandemic. Axel Schafer, a lawmaker for the ruling Social Democrats, justified the vaccinations by citing compulsory smallpox vaccinations: “the experience of that time showed that with this compulsory vaccination against smallpox we saved millions of lives.”
Though the majority of Germans support a mandate, vaccinations expose the trickiest of governance dilemmas. Of those advocating for mandates, some propose a requirement for all adults, others a mandate for adults above fifty, and still others counseling mandates for unvaccinated people. With debate so complex, decisive movement is unlikely. This has led to criticism from every side of the ideological spectrum. Will the Bundestag bow to the pressure and take action sufficient to curb skyrocketing cases? The answer remains uncertain.
By: Michelle Fang