The Federal Chancellor and the presidents met yesterday as scheduled CountriesFederal states, our regions. They will do so again on January 24th. At this meeting, interventions to stop the epidemic were decided. Which, at the moment, seems to have stabilized: the number of daily infections is among the lowest in Europe but in Berlin they are not calm: Omicron is spreading and soon the situation will be similar to other European countries. It is only a matter of time.
Scientists assembled on the commission set up by the new federal government are trying to be reassured: the new form is sure to spread at top speed but appears to be less dangerous. That means fewer people have to go to hospital, few need intensive care, and few deaths. However, according to experts, interest should remain high.
There was debate at the meeting, and some chiefs complained that government scholars had not suggested concrete measures. They expected more clarity and better defined rules. Thus, besides reinforcing the rules adopted thus far, Chancellor Schultz promises, once again, to commit to vaccination quickly.
This is the main difference with the previous government: a connection that has become more direct, with Health Minister Karl Lauterbach attacking Novax with his head down, and the option to bet almost everything on the duty to vaccinate, which is now being presented by much of politics as a solution to the pandemic problem.
However, there is some doubt about the meaning and appropriateness of this procedure. First of all, for the age. Omicron is spreading rapidly, and in addition to the peak associated with seasonality, the number of cases is expected to increase early over the next few weeks. In fact, issues are already on the rise. Even if the Bundestag is to act very quickly and if the majority has to hold out (and this is only an imposed outcome), the text could be approved by the end of March. At the moment there is no draft yet and it is not at all clear how the commitment can be activated. What effect could this have on the spread of the variable?
The German Ethics Council published an opinion on vaccination requirements last month. By division: four experts voted against the opinion, seven in favor of an esoteric obligation, and thirteen in favor of a general obligation. But the document says little about the reasons for the choices, because, judiciously, the council itself chose not to publish them, thus preventing a deeper evaluation of the question and highlighting how the question had been resolved only by the experts themselves.
So it is not clear how Parliament should direct itself. What should the commitment actually consist of? In the first two doses or even in a booster dose? Or a better understanding of the third and maybe even the fourth dose? Because it is now clear – and the federal government itself reminds us – that after a few months the vaccine’s immune efficacy tends to decline. Moreover, if the vaccine avoids hospitalization because vaccinated people usually go through a much milder course of the disease, it is not certain that the number of cases will decrease, on the contrary. But once the commitment is made, will the new containment measures be constitutionally acceptable? Is there no danger that the Federal Constitutional Court could intervene to limit compliance or containment because the validity of both measures would be disproportionate? And again: What vaccinations are allowed to be adhered to? Will the right to choose the vaccine be retained? Which categories of people should be excluded?
The feeling, in hearing over and over the chancellor repeat his choice in favor of introducing the vaccination obligation, is that the Federal Chancellery has no intention of at least modifying the perspective of the problem. Above all on the health level: After the pandemic, healthcare must be completely rethought, certainly in its digital dimension – here Germany highlighted the huge gaps – but also as a global right. Critical aspects emerged in staff management, with very low salaries, which also reduced the intensive care beds, which are physically present but cannot be used due to staff shortages. This is not just a number among many pandemics but it represents the red line that must not be crossed since 2020 that legitimizes the restrictions on social life adopted so far. There is no trace of all this in the arguments of the chancellor as well as the government. Perhaps more courage was expected from the new government.