Olaf Scholtz, incoming German Chancellor. Credit: Federal Finance Ministry of Germany.

New German Chancellor: What we need now is mandatory vaccination

A notable shift in German policy, and one that is newsworthy because you can be absolutely certain that if mandatory vaccination becomes the favoured policy of the kind of continental leaders that Irish politicians spend a good part of their lifetimes trying to impress, it will certainly be on the table here in relatively short order:

Scholz, who is expected to replace Merkel early next month after his coalition deal with two other parties has been approved, said he would set up a crisis team at the chancellery to coordinate coronavirus policy between the federal and regional governments. read more

“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. In institutions where vulnerable groups are cared for, we should make vaccination compulsory,” he told a news conference to present the deal he struck with the ecologist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats to form Germany’s next government.

Now, of course, just because something becomes Government policy, that does not mean it becomes easy to implement overnight. The reason, for example, that Scholtz focuses on “key workers” is because Government has more control over those directly employed by it than it does, say, over people who work in a pub or a retail outlet. Governments cannot directly sack people in the private sector: They require the co-operation of private businesses for that.

And they may find it difficult, in Europe, to sack public sector employees too. In the USA, which is the land of Government-enacted vaccine mandates these days, sacking people is much easier than it is in Europe. Here, we generally require some sort of gross misconduct or disciplinary issue to sack a public sector employee. In the US, they can do it – this is a slight, but relatively accurate generalisation – for almost any reason.

It should be remembered here, too, that for all that some readers will jump up and down and cry “fascism” about all of this, that politicians are moving in this direction for one simple reason: That it is, and will be, overwhelmingly popular.

For a whole variety of reasons, ranging from media coverage to a general pandemic exhaustion, the Irish and European public have fixated on the idea that unvaccinated people are a primary reason that the Covid pandemic still endures. This is, of course, despite the fact that the primary reason the pandemic still endures is that the very vaccines they wish to make mandatory have been substantially ineffective at stopping the spread of the disease, and therefore, the chance of the disease mutating and evading vaccines.

You and I might be able to explain that to our Aunts and Uncles, given a chance, one on one. But try explaining it to 300million Aunts and Uncles who get their daily news from RTE, and its European equivalents. They want vaccine mandates. And if they want ‘em, politicians will find a way to implement them. After all, there is not much that politicians are doing at the moment that is popular, so this is one of those things that they are incentivised to jump on.

In any case, a shift towards mandatory vaccination in Ireland would not look much different to what we have already been doing: It is highly unlikely that any Government would even consider a policy of physically forcing an injection onto people: The sight and sounds of the recalcitrant minority being dragged from their homes and held down while a man in a hazmat suit injects them might risk the policy becoming unpopular. The easiest, and most likely, way to do it is simply to make life intolerable for the unvaccinated by extending the vaccine passport requirement to everything bar the basic essentials for life: All travel, all public venues, attendance at university, admittance to public offices, and so on. That’s the road we have been on for some time, and there is no reason to suspect that it will end anytime soon.

There are two problems with it: One of them practical, and the other one moral. The practical problem is that, absent a sudden increase in the efficacy of the existing vaccines, it will not work. Perhaps the booster shots will dramatically increase immunity, and lead to a much longer period of protection, for example. But even that is a hope, and nothing more. European Governments risk alienating permanently a reasonable chunk of their population, and radicalising them, for an unknown and probably imaginary gain.

The second problem is purely moral: This is a direction of travel, being embarked upon for political reasons as much as epidemiological reasons, which explicitly discriminates against people for exercising a right of self determination which has been enshrined in western law for a hundred years or more. It does not really matter, in truth, whether somebody declines a vaccine based on medical advice, or because they read on the internet that Bill Gates is secretly using the jabs to render them sterile. Their reason is their own, and exercising that decision is one right which we have always, for very good reason, recognised.

None of this will end well. It is a short term approach, based entirely on what is popular, that will end up unleashing a torrent of anger and resentment, and fatally rupturing the trust between state and citizen. In decades to come, many of those who support it today will write that in hindsight, it was a massive, and regrettable, over-reaction. But by then, it will, of course, be too late. And we will be living with the consequences.

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