It’s been almost two years since doctors identified a new mysterious illness spreading in China. COVID-19 has turned the globe upside down with measures and restrictions becoming the norm. Now, attention has turned towards mandatory vaccinations, with many raising the alarm that the new drive threatens to breach people’s rights.
Cases have once again begun to surge throughout Europe and now governments are trying to do what they can to ensure people get the jab.
While vaccines have certainly helped the situation, with Malta emerging as a prime example of how vaccinations can help curb hospitalisation amid a spike of new cases, the new initiative seems counter-productive, actually emboldening scores of people who simply refuse to take the jab for one reason or another.
Lockdowns and restrictions were once the name of the game, but now more countries are considering mandatory vaccination. European Commissioner President Ursula von der Leyen has even called for an EU-wide discussion on the topic.
Here’s a look at which European countries are moving towards a mandatory jab:
From 1st February 2022, COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory throughout Austria. It is se to be the first to issue compulsory vaccination in the bloc.
The decision came amid a spike in new cases with a national lockdown failing to curb the figures.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has insisted that mandatory vaccination is the only way of moving on from the virus.
German MPs are discussing potential compulsory COVID-19 vaccines and will take a vote on the matter in the coming weeks.
Incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he hopes MPs vote in favour, with outgoing head Angela Merkel saying that she would have voted in favour if she was still an MP.
There seems to be political consensus in Germany, with even Robert Habeck, who could become Vice-Chancellor, lamenting that while mandatory vaccines would have “ far-reaching encroachment on the freedom of the individual”, it would “protect life and ultimately the freedom of society”.
However, much like Austria, it appears to be seen how the state could enforce the vaccine on a large chunk of people who simply refuse to get vaccinated. Rounding them up and forcing it upon them would be in flagrant breach of international law.
Greece has already put in place a system that will fine persons over 60 who do not get vaccinated. They will start being fined €100 per month after 15th January.
The measure was put in place because, according to the Greek government, older people account for 90% of deaths in the country.
While debates on mandatory vaccines have dominated the news in recent weeks, Italy actually made the jab compulsory for health professionals back in April.
As of 15th December, teachers, school staff, military, police, and other emergency workers will be obliged to get the vaccine.
And while it has not extended the directive to the population at large, it has imposed barriers for the unvaccinated, requiring either a vaccine certificate or a recovery certificate to enter events.
Since September, France has imposed a mandatory vaccination of health professionals, firefighters, and transport workers.
Meanwhile, people who work in jobs that interact with the public must provide a health pass to work. The pass either proves that they are vaccinated, have recovered from the virus, or have a negative test result.
The same pass has been applied to the public, who must use one to enter bars, restaurants, gyms, and events.
While the country has steered clear of a nationwide mandatory vaccine, its measures try to impose it.
6. United Kingdom
The UK has steered away from mandatory vaccines. However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that it will be mandatory for health and care workers by 1st April 2022.
Still, he insisted that given vaccine hesitancy, the government will not look towards compulsory jabs.
Mandatory vaccination is required for health workers and people who work within state institutions. Meanwhile, private companies are allowed to impose the condition if they want to.
Latvia, much like others, has restrictions in place that prevent people who are unvaccinated or have recovered from the virus to enter shops, events and restaurants.
Meanwhile, from 15th December, workers must present a COVID-19 vaccination or recovery certificate. Doctors, teachers, and care workers must be vaccinated.
And while it has stopped short of a mandatory vaccine for the entire population, its Health Minister has said it is examining other countries’ approaches.
Malta, unlike most countries across the bloc, has had an overwhelmingly successful vaccination campaign, with over 90% of the total population getting the jab. The booster vaccine has also been positive, with already 30% of the population getting their third jab.
Still, there are some soft measures out there, with the government applying restrictions to vaccinated people at events of over 100 people.
Moving towards a mandatory vaccine will be a dangerous move and could undo the positive feeling around the vaccine in Malta. As studies have continuously proven, it becomes harder and harder to inoculate adults when something is imposed on them.
Mandatory vaccines seem like a politician’s answer to the situation, presenting the jab as a quick solution to the issue. However, most rarely seem to offer solutions beyond jumping on the bandwagon, whether that’s vaccines or lockdown.
Meanwhile, most of the same world leaders calling for a mandatory vaccine, particularly within the EU, are the very same ones who blocked the production of a generic vaccine in developing countries, who still have a massively low vaccination rate and are behind the continuous emergence of variants.
Maybe, it’s time the governments start looking at their actions, before imposing decisions on many who simply do not want to get it.
Do you agree with mandatory vaccines?