Germany once again bucked the trend, spreading throughout the EU, to discard COVID regulations by considering the introduction of mandatory vaccination (the European Conservative reported). Already in March, four proposals had been presented during parliamentary debates, none of which received majority support. The supporters of compulsory vaccination tried to reach a compromise before the vote on April 7th, but ultimately failed by a wide margin.
Four drafts were on the ballot. The parliamentary group led by Social Democratic Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) had been campaigning in March for mandatory vaccination from the age of 18, but in the days leading up to the vote it became increasingly clear that this draft was not going to gain majority support. The members of the faction, consisting mostly of SPD and Green party politicians, adjusted their draft and raised the age for the planned mandatory vaccination to 50 first, and then even further to 60 in hopes of reaching a compromise. Still, 378 MPs voted against the draft, while only 296 voted in favor, and 9 MPs abstained. Factional constraints were removed during the vote.
The other drafts failed even more clearly. The motion by the Christian Democratic CDU/CSU parliamentary group for a preventive vaccination law, which was intended to lay the groundwork for the introduction of compulsory vaccination in autumn, was rejected by 497 votes against, with only 172 votes in favor.
The motion to reject a mandatory vaccination requirement presented by a group of deputies led by liberal FDP Vice-Chairman Wolfgang Kubicki was rejected as well, as was the motion by the AfD to repeal the vaccination requirement for healthcare workers, which has been in force since mid-March.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had spoken out in favor of a general vaccination requirement as early as autumn. But after the failed proposals, he considered the issue closed. “There is no legislative majority in the Bundestag for compulsory vaccination,” Scholz said, “that is the reality that we must now take as a starting point for our actions.”
This directive from above, however, did not yet seem to make its way to Health Minister Lauterbach, who announced the very next day that he would still try everything to “achieve mandatory vaccination by autumn.”
Among many parliamentarians, as well as the media, there was a sense of shock after the vote. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called the result a “sad low point of the pandemic;” the Süddeutsche Zeitung accused Chancellor Scholz of personal failure, and Tagesschau regretted that the debate had been held “too late” since the Omikron wave had provided “more mild courses of disease than the Delta variant.”
Members of the AfD, however, were delighted with the result. Alice Weidel demanded the resignation of Karl Lauterbach and called the motion a “law of shame.” Beatrix von Storch also commented on the failed bill by calling for Lauterbach’s resignation, calling it a “good day.” Tino Chrupalla called compulsory vaccination from 60 “nothing more than a door opener for compulsory vaccination from 18” and cheered, “We’ve stopped it!”
Disappointed parliamentarians of other factions were a bit more dramatic. Joe Weingarten (SPD) vented his frustration on Twitter: “For the first time since 1945, the fascists are cheering again in the Reichstag. Thanks to the CDU. A low point of the parliament.”
The youngest member of parliament, Green politician Emilia Fester, also expressed her bewilderment. “Probably another Corona winter awaits us,” Fester said, “I’m terribly sorry. I wanted things to be different.”
The decision also drew critical commentary among activists. Emma Kohler, a member of Green Youth and Fridays for Future activist wrote “saying no to mandatory vaccination means saying yes to lockdown and no to freedom,” and the Left Youth was already predicting “thousands of deaths” next fall.