BERLIN — German lawmakers are debating on Thursday whether to require all people aged 60 and over in the country to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — a compromise solution the government hopes will receive a parliamentary majority.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his health minister initially called for a vaccination mandate to apply to all adults in Germany, but some government lawmakers and most of the opposition balked at the idea.
After months of haggling, an all-party group has proposed that only older people should be required to get vaccinated, although there is mandatory advice for all adults to help them weigh the benefits and risks of vaccination against COVID-19.
Two opposition proposals are also being debated: the centre-right Union bloc has proposed preparing a vaccine register to track who has received a shot, but opposes a requirement to get one. The far-right Alternative for Germany party opposes any mandate and wants the current vaccine requirement for health workers to be repealed.
Germany has handled the pandemic well compared to some of its European neighbors, with fewer deaths per capita than Italy, France, Britain or Sweden.
Social Democrat lawmaker Dagmar Schmidt, who introduced the compromise bill targeting the over-60s, noted that the number of infections has been falling lately.
Official figures show that Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases have fallen in recent weeks, from a peak of around 300,000 a day to just over 200,000 in the past 24 hours. There have been 328 COVID-related deaths, according to Germany’s disease control agency.
But Schmidt said there was a need to prepare for a further rise in cases and a possible new variant later in the year.
“We will face the same challenge next fall that we faced last fall,” she said. “The virus is not just going to go away.”