Merkel says jabs in Germany will remain voluntary

German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves a press conference following her visit to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)

Germany is not planning to follow France and other countries in introducing compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for parts of the population, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday.

“We do not intend to go down this road,” Merkel said in Berlin after visiting the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) public health agency.

“We are at the beginning of the phase in which we are still promoting (vaccination), where we have more vaccines than we have people who want to be vaccinated,” she said.

After a slow start to its vaccination campaign earlier this year, Germany sped up its drive over the summer and had by Tuesday fully vaccinated 42.6 percent of adults, with 58.5 percent vaccinated at least once.

But demand has slowed over the past two weeks, with the number of jabs given on Monday at its lowest since February.

With the highly contagious Delta variant now dominant in Germany and the RKI saying at least 85 percent of adults will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, some have been calling for a new approach.

Wolfram Henn, a genetics specialist at Saarland University and a member of the German Ethics Council, which advises the government on its vaccination strategy, called on Tuesday for jabs to be made compulsory for teachers.

“Teachers and educators, by virtue of their choice of profession, have a very special responsibility towards the people entrusted to them and their families,” he told the Bild daily.

French President Emmanuel Macron had on Monday announced mandatory vaccinations for healthcare staff, retirement home workers and others working with vulnerable people from September, in line with similar moves in Greece, Italy and Britain.

But Merkel said she did not believe the German government could “gain trust” by following a similar path.

“I think we can gain trust by advertising vaccination and also by letting as many people as possible in the population (…) become ambassadors for the vaccine from their own experience,” she said.

by AFP


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