TThe German government has announced a lockdown for the unvaccinated and plans to make Covid vaccines mandatory, after weeks of record infections in the country and much of German-speaking Europe.
In Austria, thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest a series of measures: From February, the government will introduce compulsory vaccines for all, with an exemption for those who cannot receive a vaccine for for medical reasons.
Vaccination rates in Germany and Austria lag behind the rest of Western Europe, with less than 70% of populations having had two vaccines.
People from both countries explain what they think of the current situation and what they think of the mandates and restrictions of unvaccinated vaccines.
Max, 26, lives in the German Land of Baden Wurtemberg and chose to remain unvaccinated against Covid.
“I have a health problem, an autoimmune disease, which increases my risk of side effects with the current set of vaccines, and has led my GP to recommend that I not take them. We are both closely monitoring the development of alternative vaccines, which may not present this high risk. “
Max is enraged by the restrictions placed on members of the public who have not been immune to the virus.
“The public health bureaucrats have decided they know more about my medical situation than my own doctor. The personal risk analysis which was once the hallmark of good clinical management is now strongly discouraged by the Robert Koch Institute [Germany’s federal health agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention], and physicians are encouraged to make decisions based not on the needs of their patients but on the assessments of bureaucrats.
“Because I decided to listen to my doctor’s honest medical advice, I was subjected to a series of increasingly senseless ‘measures’, blatantly designed to make my life functionally unlivable, until I am undergoing a medical procedure which I know is not fair. for me.
“These steps did absolutely nothing to convince me – they just made my life more difficult and more lonely. I am now excluded from public life; I can’t go to stores and am on a ridiculous personal curfew that prevents me from leaving the house after 9pm.
Donovan, 27, geoscientist from Potsdam, Germany who was vaccinated as soon as possible and received his booster, is comfortable with the restrictions for the unvaccinated, but feels very ambivalent about a possible mandate for vaccination for the general population.
“I don’t like warrants. I’m uncomfortable with a government anywhere telling anyone what to do with their body, and I sincerely hope that, as Austrian ministers have said, the mandate will be a tool of persuasion, rather than a real mechanism to pressure people to get vaccinated.
“People in this region in particular have been forced to do things they haven’t wanted to do for a long time, historically speaking, and I hope the new coalition government in Germany will maintain the unbreakable autonomy of each on its own.” body. “
Mistrust of the government is particularly prevalent in East Germany, he says, where the population has been spied on and controlled for decades by the former Communist regime.
“This mistrust is in my opinion a bigger problem than anything else. But I hope some people will change their mind.
What exactly a vaccination warrant would mean in practice, however, remains as unclear in Germany as in Austria.
“I support measures which considerably reduce the individual freedoms of unvaccinated people, given the risk they represent for society. “
“I further support immunization mandates in the healthcare sector, and would support other measures, such as those taken by companies in the United States, that would require unvaccinated people to pay health insurance premiums or contributions. higher social protection. Those of us who are vaccinated should not continue to subsidize the medical costs of the unvaccinated. “
In Brandenburg state, where he lives, only 61% of people had received two doses of the vaccine when they looked for it about a week ago.
“It’s just not enough. I don’t want anyone to lose their job because they didn’t want to get the vaccine, but I understand that in these extraordinarily difficult times, extraordinarily difficult steps may need to be taken.
Heike *, 68, retired from Munich, echoes Donovan’s views, and feels uncomfortable about mandatory vaccinations.
“I am fully vaccinated and have just received a booster, but I am reluctant to make vaccines mandatory. We need to preserve freedom of choice, but I have no problem with the unvaccinated severely restricted when it comes to restaurants, cafes, travel, visitors, employment, social events and shopping. for something other than the essential.
The unvaccinated, Heike said, have absorbed unscientific advice that clouds their judgment, but a constructive dialogue between the pro and anti-vaccine camps that could convince skeptics to get vaccinated no longer appears possible.
“People here are very black and white about things. My husband would support him if people were forcibly restrained and vaccinated. The conversation got very aggressive.
Many of those who refuse to get bitten favor alternative medicine, Heike thinks.
“All my friends who are not vaccinated always consult homeopathic doctors. There are horrific consequences of refusing to be vaccinated – cancer surgeries are canceled, for example.
“My friend thought it was okay for people to forge vaccination certificates. These people should be imprisoned in my opinion.
Thomas Steiner, 49, Viennese videographer, believes that a widespread lack of appreciation for science in Austria is one of the root causes of low vaccine uptake in the country.
“I have no idea where this came from, but Austria, like Germany, is an esoteric hotspot. Alternative medicine and homeopathy are big business here and sold in drugstores; it’s deeply rooted. A lot of people say this is one of the culprits for the situation we have now.
But, he adds, the question is complex. “The reasons are of course multifaceted, and the other major factor is political: our ruling party, the ÖVP, announced the end of the Covid crisis on massive billboards this summer, and said that it would now be a private matter for individuals. with. “We have conquered the pandemic, fought the crisis. Finally, together again, ”reads one of these billboards. That was the message.
“In addition, we haven’t done enough to promote vaccines. The right-wing FPÖ party is openly against vaccination. In this political climate, everything is an uphill battle.
Overall, Steiner believes there is no way around a general vaccine mandate. “We need one to counter our low vaccination rate, like we had in the 1970s against smallpox. It will not be a challenge to get that warrant in court.
“It’s not what everyone wanted, but here we are. “