It's a tragedy. First, people had to wait months to get the COVID-19 vaccine and now doctors are waiting for people to come and get vaccinated. Meanwhile, thousands of expired doses are ending up in the garbage.
Many German states, including Hamburg, Berlin and Baden-Württemberg, have proposed returning their surplus vaccine doses to the Health Ministry. Otherwise, they will have to be disposed of once they reach their expiry date.
It's bad enough that the disposal of the vaccines is costing millions in taxpayers' money, but what's worse is the fact that some people are still maintaining their skepticism toward the vaccine — making it increasingly hard for Germany to reach the goal of herd immunity hailed at the beginning of the inoculation campaign.
Conflicting information, personal freedom
Many people are responsible for this tragedy. Not only those who do not want to be vaccinated, but also the politicians failing to make the necessary decisions as well as the experts giving contradictory information.
By invoking their rights to personal freedom, anti-vaxxers risk contributing to a situation in which society's rights to freedom overall are restricted.
This understanding of freedom at the expense of the general public has nothing to do with the ideal of the enlightened citizen, which liberals rightly champion. On the contrary: It shows that some people are willing to deprive society as whole from its freedom when the next lockdown is imposed.
The conflicting recommendations with regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine have also contributed to the tragedy. While the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved it for all age groups, Germany's STIKO (the standing committee on vaccination) has advised that AstraZeneca only be used for people over 60. Denmark has even stopped using it altogether.
In Germany, the political decision-makers seem to have taken leave from this issue to focus on the election campaign. The destruction of expired vaccines isn't considered a suitable topic of discussion — let alone the issue of compulsory vaccination.
The fact that Germany's neighbors have introduced compulsory vaccination for certain professions shows that another way is possible. Italy made vaccines mandatory for health care workers as of May 25, and is currently debating whether to do the same for teachers.
In France, health care workers in hospitals and care homes will have to prove that they are vaccinated from September 15, if they want to continue doing their job. And on June 16, the British government introduced legislation making it compulsory for care workers to have been vaccinated from October onward.
We must continue to vaccinate
The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that ideological debates and political posturing do not save lives or render viruses harmless — that can only happen with the rapid development of a vaccine. Thanks to scientific excellence and international cooperation, it does seem possible we will get the pandemic under control.
This makes this destruction of valuable vaccines all the more devastating. The suffering of those who have contracted COVID-19, and the relatives of those who have died from it, obliges us to carry on despite painful setbacks and continue to vaccinate and fight for every single human life. It means that we will have to continue taking part in unpleasant debates and make decisions, instead of shirking on our responsibilities. Only then will this tragedy come to an end.
This article has been translated from German