The German Bundestag has rejected mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 for everyone over 60 by a wide margin, with 378 MPs voting against the measure, 296 voted for it, and nine abstaining.
Expressing his disappointment at the result, controversial Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), known for his fanatical pursuit to implement a vaccine mandate in Germany, told reporters: “It is a crucial decision because now the fight against Covid-19 will be much more difficult in the fall.”
Different proposals were put forward, but in general, Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Free Democrats (FDP) were the only parties clearly against mandatory vaccination. FDP’s leader, Christian Lindner, was initially for a vaccine mandate but did a U-turn on the issue in recent weeks as his party revolted over his stance. Lindner, like Olaf Scholz, had initially lied before the election last year, promising there would be no vaccine mandate, only to change their minds after the election.
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The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) put forward competing legislation that would have led to mandatory vaccinations for those 60 and older, but then voted against each other’s proposals in what appeared to be more political brinkmanship than actual ideological opposition to a vaccine mandate.
The debate leading up to the vote lasted three hours, but German society has been locked in the debate for over a year. While a majority of Germans were first against a vaccine mandate and then for one, they are now once again opposed, with only 46 percent of Germans supporting such a mandate for those 18 and over. However, a majority still supports mandatory vaccinations for those 60 and older.
AfD praises vote while Greens rage
The conservative AfD party was the party that has been consistently most opposed to a vaccine mandate, with AfD faction leader Alice Weidel expressing her approval.
“The traffic light coalition does not come close to achieving a majority for mandatory vaccination. The federal government is done,” she said, and called on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to dismiss Lauterbach.
“Thankfully, the arguments against the general obligation to vaccinate eventually prevailed,” the vice-president of the Bundestag, FDP MP Wolfgang Kubicki, also said in praise of the decision.
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Other politicians lamented the outcome, especially the Green Party, which campaigned hard for mandatory vaccination.
The 23-year-old Green Party MP Emilia Fester expressed her outrage, claiming that she had “not been able to go to clubs” or go on vacation for two years because some people refused to vaccinate. It was later revealed that showed little understanding of the decision, She claimed that Germany will soon face another “corona winter.”
Her parliamentary colleague, Green MP Janosch Dahmen, also known for his aggressive stance on vaccine mandates, warned of the consequences of the decision. He stated that the health risk for the vulnerable and elderly and the burden on health workers is still very high.
In Germany, already 88 percent of all people 60 and over are listed as vaccinated. All health workers are also required to be vaccinated, as required by law. Despite claims earlier in the crisis that vaccination would stop the spread of the virus, Germany is currently experiencing a record number of cases, however, the death rate is significantly lower than the height of the crisis.
Despite the outcome of the vote, it is unclear how Germany’s left-wing government will proceed in the fall, at which time there may be more pressure to conduct another vote on the issue.