Professor Ullmann, details of two group applications for compulsory vaccination have been made known so far: one draft rejects compulsory vaccination, the other provides for a general obligation for all adults. You are at the head of a group of MEPs proposing a different path. What is your solution?
We have to recognize that the pandemic can be significantly slowed down by vaccination, but unfortunately the vaccination gap in Germany is very large. Our answer is to counter misinformation about vaccination and to educate people who have concerns and fears. We consider mandatory education for unvaccinated adults to be necessary. If that doesn’t work, you have to think about compulsory vaccination for the elderly.
How should information and vaccination obligations interlock?
Anyone who is of legal age and has not been vaccinated against Corona should be given an appointment for an informational discussion with a doctor in a vaccination center. This is how we protect clinics and practices from being overwhelmed. The appointment can only be canceled if a first vaccination can be proven in return. If the vaccination gap is still too big by summer, we have to work with a vaccination certificate. It must be clearly proportionate and appropriate. The aim is to prevent the healthcare system from being overburdened so that all sick people can be treated well. We know from studies that unvaccinated people over the age of 50 are more often in the intensive care unit. Therefore, if education does not help, a vaccination certificate for everyone over 50 years of age can be considered.
Almost three quarters of Germans are currently vaccinated twice, every second person is boosted. What quotas are needed to avert compulsory vaccination?
On this point, I would like to know what quotas the Federal Government’s panel of experts considers necessary. We should then implement this number in the legislative process.
The FDP has always said that there will be no vaccination obligation with it. Were you too hasty in your rejection?
We don’t have that in the election program. But yes, during the election campaign we said that compulsory vaccination is not necessary. I was always sure that you could convince people with good arguments, which is how I treat my patients as a doctor. But if the general public is at risk – and it is with the current vaccine gap – then we must take responsibility and act accordingly. The fact that people are urged to at least have an informational talk is absolutely proportionate to me.
Critics could argue that it is not in line with the principle of equal treatment if a 50-year-old has to be vaccinated but a 49-year-old does not.
The age limit is quite legitimate, it is covered by the available evidence. If our model wins a majority and is later challenged in court, I am sure that the judges will deal with the scientific basis on the risk of corona infection for the unvaccinated. And if the evidence on this question changes over time, the regulation would of course have to be adapted.
The results of the Erfurt Covimo study on vaccination behavior suggest that many who are not yet vaccinated decided against vaccination out of conviction. Why do you think you can reach them with mandatory advice?
The study showed that at least 30 percent of the unvaccinated do not completely reject the vaccination – many unvaccinated have safety concerns. I hope that a doctor can reach these people in a direct conversation. It’s not about a quickie clarification for me, the colleagues should really take their time. I expect the German Medical Association to make suggestions as to what such advice might look like.
What does someone have to expect who does not seek advice and later does not get vaccinated?
The police and public order office should check the guidelines and anyone who cannot prove that they have received advice or, if necessary, had been vaccinated must pay a fine. If you don’t pay, you can be fined. The other group of MPs, which calls for vaccinations to be compulsory for all adults, also wants to enforce them in a similar way.
What do you expect from the orientation debate on Wednesday?
Many MPs do not yet have a final opinion on the subject and they hope that after the debate they will be able to join one of the three groups and represent it in front of their conscience. In any case, I think that we could decide on an obligation to provide information by the end of March.
Who supports your group application?
Konstantin Kuhle, the parliamentary group’s domestic spokesman, and Gyde Jensen are there for the FDP. There are also MPs from the SPD and the Greens for the application, so the entire spectrum of traffic lights is represented. I would also be interested in finding supporters in the Union. We want to send our project to the parliamentary groups on Monday.