German parliament rejects mandatory vaccines in blow for Scholz

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BERLIN, April 7 (Reuters) – Germany’s lower house of parliament on Thursday voted against a law compelling anyone over 60 years of age to get a vaccination against COVID-19 in a defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Germany’s vaccination campaign is faltering with around 76.6% of Germany’s population having received at least one dose – lower than in other western European countries such as France, Italy or Spain, where the figures are 81.4%, 84.4% and 86.9% respectively.

In an attempt to avoid another wave of the virus in the autumn, the cross-party proposal required citizens aged 60 and over to be vaccinated from October 15.

Of the 683 parliamentarians who voted, 378 cast a ballot against the law and 296 in favour, triggering cheers from far-right AfD lawmakers. It was a free vote, with lawmakers not told to follow party lines.

However, the defeat is a setback for Scholz who had even summoned his foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, to leave a NATO meeting in Brussels to return for the vote.

Scholz had last week been forced to drop plans for mandatory vaccinations for over 18s as he could not muster a parliamentary majority.

Failure to impose the mandate reflects the challenging policy-making dynamics of the ruling coalition government, comprising Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and liberal Free Democrats who disagree on many issues.

Imposing vaccination on citizens violates the second article of the constitution, which guarantees citizens control over their own bodies, the AfD motion argued.

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