Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the E.U. Commission, has said that it is “potentially time to think about how we can have mandatory vaccination within the European Union”. Although von Der Leyen reiterated that member states can decide their own Covid response measures, including whether to make vaccination compulsory, she spoke of her concern that 1/3 of Europeans, roughly 150 million, are currently unjabbed which, she claims, is carrying “an enormous health cost”. MailOnline has the story.
Von der Leyen’s comments come after Austria announced plans to make vaccines mandatory for all eligible citizens by February, with an aide to incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying yesterday that he wants to follow suit.
Europe is currently in the midst of a wave of Covid cases that has seen restrictions return across the continent amid fears of another Christmas spent in lockdown.
Adding to those fears is the emergence of the new Omicron variant which is thought to be more infectious than the Delta strain, and has been detected in Europe.
Von dey Leyen was speaking at a press conference to discuss what measures the E.U. is taking to combat these dual threats.
She said the European Union has enough booster shots for every fully vaccinated adult to get one, urging people to take it within six months of their last jab.
Pfizer vaccines will also be available for children as young a five within the next two weeks after the European medical regulator approved it, she added.
Measures such as masks, hand hygiene and social distancing are also being used she said, but “full vaccination and boosters provide the strongest protection against Covid that is available now.”
Asked by a journalist whether she supported making vaccines mandatory for everyone, she replied: “First of all, this is pure member state competence. It is therefore not up to me to give any kind of recommendation.”
“[But] if you’re asking me what my personal position is, two or three years ago I would never have thought to witness what we see right now.
“That we have this horrible pandemic, we have the lifesaving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere, and thus this is an enormous health cost.
“If you look at the numbers we have 66% of whole E.U. population vaccinated, which means we have one third of the population which is not vaccinated.
“This is 150million people – that is a lot. Not each and every one could be vaccinated, these are very young children and people with medical conditions, but the vast majority could.
“Therefore I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now, how we can encourage and potentially think about how we can have mandatory vaccination within the European Union.
“This needs discussion, this needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that I think needs to be had.”
European leaders have been targeting the unvaccinated with measures since the winter wave of infections began picking up speed last month.
Countries including the likes of Italy, France and Germany tightening rules around their health passes to deny unjabbed people access to public spaces.
France has also introduced ‘expiry dates’ for its passes that mean adults who have not had a booster within the last seven months will be penalised.
Austria went the furthest, initially locking the unvaccinated in their homes before reversing that policy with a full lockdown and announcement that jabs would be mandatory for all.
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