German elected officials are considering introducing making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for everyone, coming days after Austria’s government announced a similar move.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced last week that COVID-19 vaccines would be mandatory starting Feb. 1, 2022, because the government has “not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated.”
The move appeared to prompt Bavarian premier Markus Soder to say that German officials should impose a similar vaccine requirement.
“Just like in Austria, we have to discuss the need for a vaccine mandate for everyone from the second half of next year,” Soder said.
But Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister and top member of the Social Democrats, said Friday that Austria-style vaccine mandates “won’t happen.”
“We don’t see them as necessary and we think that they would be problematic in terms of our constitution,” he told Bild.
The debate over mandatory vaccines comes as Germany has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days. On Thursday, the country saw a daily increase of 65,371 new infections, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute health agency.
Germany, with a 67.5 percent rate, has a higher vaccination rate than the United States, which is currently about 59.1 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that further restrictions would be handed down in German states that surpass a threshold of nine hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
“The current pandemic situation in Germany is dramatic, I can’t say it any other way,” she told mayors on Wednesday, according to reports. “It would be a disaster to act only when the intensive care units are full, because then it would be too late.”
Meanwhile, Austria’s government last week confirmed that a lockdown will be imposed across the country for up t0 20 days, starting Nov. 22.
Last week, officials initially placed millions of people who aren’t fully vaccinated on lockdown, a measure that has now increased to the whole population regardless of vaccination status. Schallenberg said the lockdown and vaccination requirement is needed to avoid a “fifth wave,” referring to an increase of cases in the past week.
The country has reported more than 10,000 new infection cases daily, a new record.
Due to the mandates, protests erupted across Austria—with more than 35,000 people taking to the streets in Vienna on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, many waved Austrian flags while carrying signs with slogans such as “no to vaccination,” “enough is enough,” or “down with the fascist dictatorship.” Authorities said that in Vienna the crowd surged to about 35,000 people.
Lorenz Duchamps contributed to this report.