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German Parliament Approves COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Health Workers

The ballot box for a COVID-19 law is seen, in the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 10, 2021.

Germany’s Bundestag – the lower house of parliament – approved a measure Friday requiring health care workers to be vaccinated, the first step by the country’s new government to fight the latest surge of COVID-19.

The measure passed 571 to 80 and was expected to be approved by parliament’s upper house later Friday.

The legislation would also force state governments to implement other restrictions, such as closing bars and restaurants, or banning large events, if infection rates get too high. It also expands who can deliver vaccinations to include veterinarians, dentists and pharmacists.

The government of Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has made fighting the pandemic a priority and Scholz has indicated his support for vaccine mandates. A broader vaccine mandate could be debated by parliament in coming weeks.

Prior to the lower house vote Friday, new German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist, told lawmakers there was no time to lose in protecting the population from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said a vaccine mandate for health workers was necessary because, as he sees it, “it's completely unacceptable... that after two years of pandemic, people who have entrusted their care to us are dying unnecessarily in institutions because unvaccinated people work there.”

The legislation would require healthcare workers at hospitals, doctor's offices and nursing homes to prove that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 by mid-March.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases ((RKI)) reports as of Friday, 69.4 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse