And that was more than clear: 378 deputies against the project of the light signal for compulsory vaccination from the age of sixty, 296 deputies for it. The issue is not raised, there will be no compulsory vaccinations in Germany. Were you expecting this result, especially this obvious result?
Stephen Augsberg: No, the clarity of that is certainly surprising. It became apparent last when decisions were made about the procedural rules for the course of action, but it is very clear that it was certainly unexpected – and also a slap in the face for the Traffic Light Coalition, the Federal Adviser and the Minister of Health.
How do you explain the result?
Augsburg: I think this has a lot to do with the fact that mandatory vaccination is a project from last fall and it appears that little has been adapted to this spring’s conditions, especially the omicron variant. Then there’s the fact that this frantic compromise was made at the last minute. It was clearly unconvincing to many MPs.
Health Minister Lauterbach said that the fight against the Corona pandemic will become more difficult by the autumn at the latest, when we have another, more serious variable. Do you share his opinion?
Augsburg: This is part of the problem of working with multiple variables, possibilities, and possibilities. Presumably, a dangerous alternative could come again. We don’t know that at all, as much as we know whether current vaccines will work against this alternative. Working with double uncertainty and saying “that’s why we have to decide this beforehand, considering the problems that come with it”, I think also raised the odds again.
Given all of these variables, would the vaccination requirement have legally ended if it existed?
Augsburg: It would have been difficult to imagine, above all, compulsory vaccination if there was a compelling justification for the far-reaching infringement of fundamental rights that this meant. This is the case if we can arrange third party protection. In the current situation with the Omikron variant, this is not the case. Even those who have been vaccinated are contagious. Vaccination only protects us from serious diseases – which is a good thing of course and that’s why people should also get vaccinated, but on a voluntary basis, to protect themselves. Some of the arguments we’ve heard are pretty bad: on the one hand “what could it be” and on the other “we really have bottlenecks in hospitals because people are sick”. Most employees in hospitals and nursing homes have been vaccinated, and are even legally required to be vaccinated — and still get sick.
Can we interpret this as a decision for personal freedom and responsibility?
Augsburg: You will have to talk to the members of the Bundestag in more detail about what they have in mind. I think it is, first of all, a decision against a poorly prepared law – a law that combined the disadvantages of the two drafts that were put forward. Among other things, the Federal Minister of Health could have been given a far-reaching opportunity to set specifications. From a constitutional point of view, one could certainly raise concerns. Part of the problem from a pro-vaccination perspective may be that this has entered a situation where we are mitigating in general and there are calls for mitigation. Then it seems that the debate about mandatory vaccination is somehow over.
In general, do you see a development in which more and more responsibility is transferred to the individual in the overall process of dealing with the pandemic?
Augsburg: To some extent, it would be desirable if we said: we have gained experience and thus can trust citizens to make rational decisions for themselves. However, I don’t see yet that politicians really apply this comprehensively. I think we’re still in a situation where we don’t know much or we don’t communicate properly. Hence it is difficult to explain a reasonable course of action to an individual. By Monday, the group surrounding Mr. Lauterbach intends to introduce compulsory vaccination from the age of 18. However, as far as we know, 18-year-olds are not at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Why should they be used? Things like that need to be explained in a completely different way and more accepted by people.
Age limits have been controversial all along, the keyword ‘cleavages in society’. What do you say what the current decision launches in society? Will it also deepen the trenches?
Augsburg: You have to wait and see. For one thing, age limits are arbitrary. This is not an obvious biological choice. On the other hand, it is not entirely arbitrary, but there are findings about the extent to which the risk is greater among the elderly. The fact that this has been amended in this respect is a reasonable, fundamentally understandable, and constitutionally reasonable course of action. At the same time, this increases the impression that the population is divided into two different camps: some have to, and some do not – or at least not yet. What we have now is useful in that we say: We are all in the same position with regard to legal requirements. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are actually at different levels of risk. In this regard, it is the over 60-year-old group that has been strongly called upon to protect itself and thus also indirectly protect the health system.
Some might have hoped that with such a compulsory vaccination, discussions about the pros and cons of vaccination would finally come to an end, for example with family members and friends at the coffee table at home. What do you think everyone else can do to counter this widening divide?
Augsburg: On the other hand, it is good when we have controversial discussions on such topics in society as a whole and in families. I think we are obligated to put all the arguments on the table and not just wipe the criticism off the table and say “You can’t say that” or “You are a corona denier or anti-vaccination”. But on the contrary. Especially when we consider vaccinations to be important and right, we must also be open about the flaws.
The fact that we’re having this discussion now is something that doesn’t necessarily further divide us as a community, but we can now experiment with what we did a little bit last summer, which is create more shows that reach the people we still know. Unfinished. It seems to me that making this more generous or simplifying accordingly is an important point, rather than continuing what we have sadly experienced: that the blame is unilaterally upon us, and that we speak of the tyranny of the unvaccinated or of their holding as hostages. This is not true under omicron conditions. The unvaccinated and the vaccinated are subject to the same restrictions and requirements because both can be contagious. This could be an argument for trying to assess the risk situation more consistently again.
At best, will we get through the pandemic well this way? Or will the subject of compulsory vaccinations strike us again in six months?
Augsburg: The peculiarity of mandatory vaccination is that it is a very German issue: although we have a relatively good vaccination rate – especially in the 60-plus age group, although we do not yet adequately include those who have recovered and although we wanted to have a system Healthy Well Equipped We all make such a general commitment to vaccination.
I think that was unbelievable from the start. Hopefully, developments in the coming weeks and months will show that this was not, in fact, an appropriate situation. I am confident that we will get through next winter without the need for vaccination and that it does not just depend on whether restrictive measures are to be adopted.
led the interview Jan Wiedemann.