/picture alliance, PHOTOPQR, L’ALSACE, MAXPPP, Jean-François FREY Berlin – The German Ethics Council recently spoke out in favor of general vaccination. The vote was not clear. The committee has now emphasized that the vote is not unrestricted. As the Chair of the Ethics Council, Alena Buyx, told Der Spiegel, the attitude towards the possible introduction of a general obligation to vaccinate also depends on which corona variant is currently dominating the infection process. When the majority of the committee recommended extending the vaccination requirement from certain professional groups to “essential parts of the population” in December, this statement was “essentially written under the conditions of the Delta variant”, said Buyx. If the facts in the pandemic change significantly – for example due to the highly infectious omicron variant – you also have to “review the normative assessments that were made,” she emphasized. “Anything else would be irresponsible.”
Note openness to revision
The members of the Ethics Council stand for “openness to revision”, and they also recommend this to politicians, said Buyx. “It’s possible that important things will change again, for example that our current vaccination rate for future, more harmless mutations will be sufficient to achieve a controlled endemic situation.” Of course, the opposite could also happen. In principle, Buyx sees problems with the immediate introduction of a general obligation to vaccinate. Because the Council has written a number of tasks for politicians that have not yet been fulfilled. “One would have to have many more low-threshold, nationwide vaccination offers, for example. So far, however, there has been no real target group-specific strategy,” she criticized. A permanent vaccination infrastructure and a large number of good advisory services would also be needed. “So there are a whole series of conditions or accompanying measures that are mandatory before we believe that vaccination could become compulsory.” The health policy spokesman for the Greens in the Bundestag, Janosch Dahmen, sees a lot going on. “We have procured a large number of additional vaccine doses and created many more mobile offers in Germany,” he said in the ARD daily topics. With the joint effort of municipalities, federal and state governments, he can see that the vaccination campaign is at a different point than it was in mid-December. Critics of the general obligation to vaccinate, such as the FDP MP Wolfgang Kubicki, see themselves confirmed in Buyx’s statements. He is glad that the Ethics Council has now declared that arguing is better “than putting people in the lace” and persuading is better than committing. “You can already hear in her words that the skepticism about general vaccination requirements has grown,” says Kubicki. The chairman of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), Thomas Mertens, again expressed his skepticism about general corona vaccination. “It divides society, because too much pressure is built up,” he told the Stuttgarter Nachrichten and the Stuttgarter Zeitung. He relies on further persuasion and education on vaccination. In the event of compulsory vaccination, it is not necessarily to be expected that the “targeted goal can really be achieved,” added Mertens. A legal obligation to vaccinate is only worth as much as it can be effectively implemented. “What do you do with those who refuse?” asked the virologist. These people would probably not be swayed by a fine. In addition, even a quick vaccination cannot break the current corona wave.
Practical implementation difficult
The chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Andreas Gassen, also doubts the practical feasibility of general vaccination. “Compulsory vaccination has the potential to fail with a bang,” Gassen told Der Spiegel. The introduction of a vaccination register would take a long time, according to the doctor. In the end, it might be up to the public health service to maintain the register, write to and invite unvaccinated people have to organize vaccination appointments – and ask if there is no feedback. “I don’t know how this is supposed to work uniformly nationwide,” said Gassen. “The health authorities are already overwhelmed with reliably reporting the current number of infections.” Chef believes high vaccination rates are necessary, but compulsory vaccination is superfluous. The vaccination rate among the elderly who are particularly at risk is comparatively high anyway, among those over 60 it is around 88 percent, according to Gassen. “And those who have until now If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, we’ll probably convince you better with other means.” People with a migration background, for example wise one reaches rather through direct address and enlightenment. “Hardcore vaccination refusers, on the other hand, would prefer to sue the public against a fine than to have an injection because of a duty,” said the KBV boss.
There shouldn’t be any compulsion
The head of the German Medical Association, Klaus Reinhardt, warned in Der Spiegel that proof of vaccination should not be compulsory. Anyone who does not provide proof of vaccination must expect restrictions. “But he must not be forced to be vaccinated. This would also fundamentally contradict medical professional ethics.” Reinhardt considers the general obligation to vaccinate to be an “ultima ratio” that could be justified when weighing up the individual’s right to self-determination and the health protection of vulnerable groups in particular. At least if there is no other way to increase the vaccination rate in the next few weeks. Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach declared yesterday in the Bundestag that he is sticking to the goal of general vaccination. “We must do everything we can to ensure that there is no fourth year with a similar threat to our society. Our federal government will meet all the necessary requirements for this.” At the end of January, the Bundestag wants to debate general vaccination requirements for the first time. After that there will be different group applications. There should not be a faction compulsion in the final vote. Members should follow their conscience alone. © dpa/afp/kna/may/aerzteblatt.de
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