Amid concerns about the increase in transmission of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday (1/1) that EU countries should consider the possibility of imposing mandatory vaccination against the Covid-19 virus on their populations.
The vaccination rate in the European bloc is relatively low, at 66%, which may have helped drive the sharp rise in infections recorded in recent weeks in many of the 27 member states of the European Union. Many people still resist voluntarily accepting doses.
Several European countries have decided to reintroduce restrictions to contain broadcasts, such as the mandatory use of masks in public places and the requirement to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test to access certain services.
Since decisions about vaccination policies rest with the governments of each country, von der Leyen has launched an appeal to governments to at least consider imposing mandatory immunization.
“It is understandable and appropriate to have this discussion now. How can we stimulate and possibly think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union?” Von der Leyen suggested. “One third of Europe’s population is unvaccinated. That’s 150 million people. That’s a lot.”
The EU chief executive further criticized that “life-saving vaccines are not being used properly everywhere” and, on the face of it, “a huge health cost looms”.
Europeans are running out of time
With infections increasing, controversy over mandatory vaccination has already begun across the continent.
Germany’s future federal chancellor, Olaf Schulz, has spoken out in favor of the commitment and blamed the unvaccinated for exacerbating the health crisis.
“The fact that so many people haven’t been vaccinated is why there is a problem all over the country now,” said the Social Democrat. “If we had a higher vaccination rate, we would be in a completely different situation.” Germany’s vaccination rate has remained at around 68% for weeks.
Austria, in turn, decreed a mandatory vaccination for the entire population from February 1. Greece plans to impose €100 fines on people over the age of 60 who have not been vaccinated. Slovakia is already considering paying 500 euros to individuals of the same age group who accept the vaccination.
Across the continent, countries such as Italy, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom are speeding up the application of immune system boosters against COVID-19.
RC (AP, AFP)
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