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Bavaria's Söder floats compulsory vaccination for care staff

January 12, 2021

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder says clear rules must be set on whether care workers should have to be vaccinated. He is also calling for a pro-vaccination publicity campaign.

Söder has been hawkish in his approach to coronavirus
Söder has been hawkish in his approach to COVID-19, advocating measures such as obligatory mask-wearing Image: Frank Hoermann/SvenSimon/picture-alliance

The Bavarian state premier on Tuesday said he hoped for a clear set of rules on whether it might be necessary to make vaccinations mandatory for staff working with high-risk groups.

Söder said that, unfortunately, there there was too much skepticism about vaccination among hospital staff and those working in places such as nursing homes.

He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper it would be "good if the German ethics council would make proposals, whether and for which groups a mandatory vaccination could be conceivable." After all, he said, this could amount to a matter of life and death in hospitals and care facilities.

Since the start of vaccination with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine at the end of December, there have been reports about an unwillingness of some care workers to be vaccinated.

Söder said a substantial campaign to win over hearts and minds to the cause of vaccination could help counteract fake news being spread by anti-vaccination groups about potential risks.

"A major government campaign is needed to promote the willingness to be vaccinated, in which role models from the arts, sports, and politics take part," Söder said. Being vaccinated should be "be considered a civic duty," he added.

Söder is leader of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. He has taken the line of advocating tough lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic and is seen as a possible contender to run for chancellor on behalf of the CDU/CSU alliance in elections later this year.

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung interview, Söder also called for an increase in the production of vaccines amid reports of bottlenecks in supply.

German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, from the center-left junior coalition partner the Social Democrats, rejected the idea of making vaccination mandatory for staff in retirement and nursing homes.

"At the moment, it's out of the question to speculate about obligatory vaccinations," Heil told German broadcasters RTL and ntv.

"I want vaccination acceptance above all," he said. "This is now about educating people that vaccination is important."

Emergency staff wary of vaccine

A survey by the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) said about half of medical staff working in intensive and emergency care said they did not, at present, want to be vaccinated.

The head of Germany's Federal Association of Private Providers of Social Services (BPA) last week said he did not see compulsory vaccination as feasible. The BPA said it did not have figures on readiness to be immunized within its own sector, such as those working in care homes for the elderly, but referred to the DIVI study.

BPA head Bernd Meurer said this did not reflect "a general skepticism about vaccination, but rather that some still need a little time and want to inform themselves comprehensively."

"We do not consider compulsory vaccination to be enforceable," Meurer added.

The German government has already made it clear that it has no plans for mandatory vaccination for the general public.

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.