Berlin (dpa) – German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has emphasized the importance of introducing compulsory vaccinations to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to accept that even compulsory vaccination is never going to reach everybody,” Lauterbach told the Welt newspaper’s Sunday edition.
“But I am convinced that there is a large group of unvaccinated people who will get vaccinated if we introduce the measure,” he added.
Lauterbach stressed that he hoped compulsory vaccinations would protect the population sufficiently in the future. “We cannot get into a situation where one summer is deceptively good, but new variants surprise us in the autumn – and without the broad majority of the population being vaccinated. Because then everything would start all over again.”
The health minister also emphasized the necessity of introducing mandatory Covid vaccinations despite the spread of the Omicron variant, which is said to carry a lower risk of severe symptoms but is more transmissible than other strains of the virus.
“An Omicron infection doesn’t necessarily make you immune to the next viral variant. The belief that the Omicron variant is the end of the pandemic is naive,” Lauterbach said.
So far, Germany has not made coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for any group. The Bundestag is scheduled to debate the matter this month, but a decision is not expected in the immediate future.
Lauterbach’s Social Democrats, who lead the country’s government coalition, say they are aiming to complete a legislative process by the end of March.
German leaders on Friday announced that they would relax quarantine rules across the country while bringing in additional restrictions for restaurants and bars, in response to fears of a surge in coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, the government raised its vaccination rate target for achieving so-called herd immunity against the coronavirus.
“It has to be our goal to get to a rate of 95 per cent, especially among vulnerable groups,” parliamentary state secretary for the Health Ministry Sabine Dittmar told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper’s Saturday edition.
“In the beginning a rate of 70 per cent was thought to be sufficient to achieve herd immunity. However, as we now know, this is not sufficient in light of the numerous mutations.”
Dittmar stressed that “more vaccinations” were needed to end the pandemic.