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Compulsory vaccination – yes or no?
First the parties of the old federal government categorically rejected a Corona vaccination obligation (source), but since the Omikron wave it is hotly discussed by the new government. Now last Wednesday a first debate took place in the Bundestag about it. The mood was divided, a draft law does not yet exist (source). There are only three drafts, a general vaccination obligation starting from 18, an inoculation obligation starting from 50 and a draft, which expresses itself against an inoculation obligation. The debate on Wednesday has not yet come to a conclusion.
But what would speak at all for or against a vaccination obligation? A short and simple comparison.
Pro – What speaks for a vaccination obligation
Compulsory vaccination prevents deaths
A modeling study by the Robert Koch Institute has calculated that in 2021, the vaccines against Covid-19 could lead to more than 38.000 deaths could be prevented (source). A very high vaccination rate across the board would therefore protect each individual in particular from being unnecessarily exposed to the risk of death. The virus can not only cause death in elderly and pre-diseased people, but also young people who do not suffer from any diseases can die from Covid-19, even if this scenario is rare.
Compulsory vaccination protects vulnerable groups
Meanwhile, quite a few studies prove the effect of the vaccines approved against Covid-19, that they protect very well against getting infected with the virus, or, if an infection did occur, to suffer a severe course (source, source).
Compulsory vaccination would help to ensure that people belonging to vulnerable groups in particular are vaccinated and thus protected. Vulnerable groups include people aged 50 and older, as well as the previously ill and pregnant women. In addition, people who cannot be vaccinated because of illness or disability, or who cannot mount an adequate immune response, and thus are not adequately protected against Covid19, would also be better protected. Then the protection of the so-called herd immunity would take effect.
Compulsory vaccination protects the health care system
As described above, vaccinations provide very good protection against severe infection with the delta variant of the corona virus. Only about 0.05 percent of people vaccinated with Biontech’s vaccine ever contract the virus (source) In the past, intensive care units were already on the verge of being overloaded, and some patients had to be transferred to other hospitals with the help of Bundeswehr aircraft (source). Although the situation in intensive care units is relatively relaxed at present, nurses and doctors have been working at full capacity for almost two years. Compulsory vaccination could counteract this and relieve both intensive care units and normal wards again.
Restrictions could be lifted as far as possible
If compulsory vaccination were introduced, sooner or later all contact restrictions could be lifted. Compulsory vaccination would ensure that the vaccination gap can be closed and hospitals would no longer be burdened as much.
Thus all restrictions could and would have to be dropped as far as possible.
Contra – What speaks against a vaccination obligation
Vaccination skeptics could become vaccination opponents
Those who are still not sure whether they should be vaccinated could take an even stronger counter-position by introducing compulsory vaccination. This effect is also shown by a study conducted in 2015 (source). An introduced vaccination obligation, which comes without a far-reaching clearing-up campaign daherkommt, could bring thus an opposite effect than the desired with itself to bring. On the other hand, it is questionable whether the proportion of "vaccination skeptics:in" among vaccination opponents:in is even high enough to be relevant.
Mandatory vaccination could lead to administrative overload
Already, many public health departments have given up tracking contacts to Corona sufferers because they can’t keep up with the rapidly increasing numbers (source). In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, some public health departments also reported being unable to enforce occupation-based mandatory vaccination in health care starting in March due to lack of staff and capacity for verification and follow-up (source). While enforcing mandatory vaccination would free health departments in the medium term from having to track and contact people with Corona disease, the burden of verifying compliance with mandatory vaccination is not yet foreseeable, but will be extremely challenging at a minimum.
Mandatory vaccination is difficult to enforce legally
There are many different issues that need to be considered in order to enforce mandatory vaccinations. Some politicians, among them the deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU, Sepp Muller, call for a vaccination register (source), Karl Lauterbach is strictly against the introduction of such a register (source). The legal question of a vaccination registry in terms of data protection is as unresolved as the question of interference with the physical integrity of every human being. Even if regular vaccinations were necessary for effective protection, a general obligation to vaccinate would be difficult to enforce.
Conclusion: No easy decision
"Omicron is an opportunity," said Prof. Christian Drosten in an interview with the Tagesspiegel in mid-January (source). Even though there are not yet sufficient studies on the omicron variant, it is already becoming apparent that the virus in its current stage is much more contagious, but also milder. And leads to fewer hospital admissions overall, even if faster spread could also lead to hospital overload in the medium term.
Landmark study by Neil Ferguson on omicron. Unvaccinated patients have a higher risk of infection with omicron vs. Delta ca. 24% less risk of a crh admission. Omicron is thus somewhat weakened compared to delta. Something. Difference in severe courses still unclear. https://t.co/71izX378wj
— Christian Drosten (@c_drosten) December 22, 2021
This could make compulsory vaccination obsolete, since all people could already have been infected by the time compulsory vaccination was enforced in the Bundestag. Prof. However, Drosten also said in the interview that endemicity can only be ushered in if it is achieved through vaccination. The large proportion of older people in the population is to blame (source). Whether the vaccination obligation comes or not, is probably a matter of a long series of negotiations and debates in the Bundestag.
As you can see, there are a few things to consider here that may not be immediately obvious, but could have a far-reaching effect. It is clear that a general duty to vaccinate would bring great benefits, but especially the legal issues need to be sufficiently discussed and clarified so that the duty could not be directly overturned by a court again. That would be much too much water on the mills of vaccination opponents and pandemic deniers.
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