European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has stated that mandatory vaccination should be considered within the EU in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.
At a press conference in Brussels, von der Leyen was asked whether she supported the Greek government’s proposed policy of a monthly fine for those aged 60 and over who have not received a COVID vaccine.
She responded: “So first of all, this is pure member state competence. Therefore, in respect to that, it’s not me to give any kind of recommendation.
“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 vaccines, the life-saving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere.
“I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now – how we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union. This needs discussion, this needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that I think has to be led.”
Currently, a third of the total EU population is not fully vaccinated. However, levels of vaccine uptake vary between EU states.
At a press conference in which he set out new ‘Plan B’ COVID regulations for England, Boris Johnson was asked whether mandatory vaccination was also being considered in the UK.
He responded: “I said right at the beginning of this pandemic, as soon as we were talking about vaccination seriously, that I didn’t want us to have a society and a culture where we force people to get vaccinated”.
However, Johnson appeared not to rule out the idea entirely: “I think that there is going to come a point, if we can show that the vaccines are capable of holding Omicron – that’s the key thing that I think we need to test – I do think we need to have a conversation about ways in which we deal with this pandemic.
“Because I want to be absolutely clear with you: I don’t think we can keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions, I mean restrictions on people’s way of life, just because a substantial proportion of the population still sadly has not got vaccinated. I think we’re going to have to have a national conversation about the way forward.”
The following day, however, health secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News : “I’ve got no interest in mandatory vaccination”.
Hans Kluge, the director of the World Health Organisation in Europe, said that mandatory vaccination should be “an absolute last resort”, and is “only applicable when all feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted.”
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