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Compulsory vaccination – yes or no?

The corona pandemic has rekindled the debate about compulsory vaccination in Germany.

Many vaccinations are administered by injection.
Many vaccinations are administered by injection. © picture alliance / Geisler-Fotopress

Is there compulsory vaccination in Germany?

Mandatory vaccination was introduced in Germany for the first time in 1874 when all children in the German Empire between the ages of one and twelve had to be vaccinated against smallpox. This statutory obligation was abolished in 1976 after smallpox was declared eradicated thanks to worldwide protective vaccination. For a time, children in the GDR were obliged to be vaccinated against tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles, but in united Germany there has only been a general obligation to vaccinate against measles since 1 March 2020.

Why is measles vaccination mandatory?

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases there is. On average, someone with measles will infect 12 to 18 other persons. In contrast, individuals with corona virus will infect an average of two to three people. Members of all age groups can catch measles. The health impacts are sometimes serious, and they often only appear years later. There is no known effective treatment for the disease. Children have to show proof of vaccination against measles before they can be accepted into a day nursery, a kindergarten or a school. Since school attendance is compulsory in Germany, this rule is equivalent to a general vaccination obligation. People who are employed in children’s institutions or in medical facilities also have to be vaccinated.

All German citizens should have a certificate of vaccination like this.
All German citizens should have a certificate of vaccination like this. © picture alliance / zb

What is the situation with regard to corona?

First off, a vaccine has not yet been developed. Nevertheless, the question of compulsory vaccination is already being debated in Germany. Ulrich Montgomery, Chair of the Council of the World Medical Association, supports compulsory vaccination. He says that people who do not vaccinate themselves against corona will be a danger to all those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons; however, a high vaccination rate will have to be achieved within a short time span.

The Federal Government is opposed to compulsory vaccination against corona. Its argument is based on citizens’ civil liberties. Chancellery Minister Helge Braun says that people who do not want a vaccination “must bear the risk of infection themselves”. The case against compulsion is also supported by the high vaccination rate achieved with voluntary vaccination. Among children starting school the rate is significantly higher than 90% for almost all the 14 vaccinations recommended by the Robert Koch Institute. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 95% represents full coverage of a population and effectively leads to the disappearance of a disease.


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