31st May 2023

WHO warns mandatory vaccination 'absolute last resort'

  • 'It is not unusual today to see two-to-three times higher incidence among young children than in the average population,' said Europe’s regional director of the World Health Organization Hans Kluge (Photo: Daily Mile)
Listen to article

Compulsory vaccination should be "an absolute last resort" only considered when all other options have been exhausted, World Health Organization (WHO) Europe's regional director Hans Kluge said on Tuesday (7 December).

"The effectiveness of mandates is very context specific," Kluge said, arguing such a move should be carefully considered due to its potential impact on public confidence and trust.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"What is acceptable in one society and community may not be effective and acceptable in another," he pointed out.

Mandatory vaccination has become a hot topic in the EU, after Austria announced in November that it would make it shots compulsory for all citizens from February.

"Freedom means responsibility as well," said Austrian health minister Wolfgang Mückstein, during a meeting with his counterparts in Brussels, backing his country's decision as a strategic long-term response to tackle infections waves.

Germany and Lithuania are also considering this approach. Meanwhie, Covid-19 vaccines have become mandatory for health workers and other at-risk professionals in several counties – including France, Italy, Hungary, Latvia and Greece.

Athens has also announced mandatory vaccination for the elderly, who will face a €100-per-month fine from 16 January.

According to Greek health minister Thanos Plevris, 90 percent of the country's ICU beds are occupied by people over 60 and the non-vaccinated.

Meanwhile, countries such as Sweden or Spain have already positioned themselves against compulsory vaccination.

Making vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory "should remain a decision for individual member states" at this point, the Maltese health minister Christopher Fearne said.

However, he pointed out that the issue of mandatory vaccination might require a collective decision in the future.

Highest rates among children

Last week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called for a debate on the issue given that over a third of the bloc's population is still unvaccinated.

According to the chief of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Andrea Ammon, "the current level of vaccine uptake in the EU is insufficient to limit the burden of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisation during the winter months".

On average across the EU, only 66 percent of people are fully-vaccinated – although there are strong variations between member states and age groups.

"It is not unusual today to see two-to-three times higher incidence among young children than in the average population," Kluge said on Tuesday.

Member states must consider the use of masks and ventilation, and regular testing, at all primary schools and as part of school protection measures. But child vaccination must be decided nationally.

The rollout of vaccines for children aged five to 11-years old is now expected to start next week in several EU member states.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides called on EU member states to "close the immunisation gap," arguing that masks and social-distancing measures are still needed.

She added that booster doses should be considered for all adults, with priority for the elderly, the most vulnerable, and those above 40-years old.

'Not a question of doses'

The emergence of the new Omicron variant has also returned the focus to vaccine equality, since new Covid variants are more likely to emerge in low-vaccination regions.

The EU has donated 350 million doses to low- and-middle-income countries.

However, according to Italian health minister Roberto Speranza, "it is not a just question of doses".

"We need to do more to vaccinate the most fragile countries… allowing them to organise their own vaccination campaigns," he argued.

The difference between rich Western countries and African states remains massive. Fewer than 10 percent of people in Africa are vaccinated.

Omicron, first discovered in South Africa and Botswana, has so far been reported in over half of EU member states.

EU agency: 'Omicron vaccine' approval to take 3-4 months

The EU drug regulator's chief said the bloc is ready to tackle mutations and allow for the fast-track approval of redesigned vaccines. The EU's disease agency said all known European Omicron cases were so far asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.

Omicron shows need for pandemic global pact, WHO says

The emergence of the new and more-contagious Omicron variant has revealed how "perilous and precarious" the Covid situation is and "why the world needs a new accord on pandemics," the chief of the World Health Organisation said.

EU leaders divided over Omicron travel rules

EU leaders failed to guarantee a coordinated approach to travel measures for the Christmas holiday season during their summit meeting. Instead they stressed that boosters shots are "crucial" and "urgent" to curb the new wave of Covid-19 infections.


EU summit focus on Covid-19 and Russia This WEEK

The EU-27 plus Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine will also adopt a statement raising alarm on "continuous destabilisation" in Ukraine.


What a Spanish novelist can teach us about communality

In a world where cultural clashes and sectarianism seems to be on the increase, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas (b.1962) takes the opposite approach. He cherishes both life in the big city and in the countryside.

Latest News

  1. Germany unsure if Orbán fit to be 'EU president'
  2. EU Parliament chief given report on MEP abuse 30 weeks before sanction
  3. EU clashes over protection of workers exposed to asbestos
  4. EU to blacklist nine Russians over jailing of dissident
  5. Russia-Ukraine relations the Year After the war
  6. Why creating a new legal class of 'climate refugees' is a bad idea
  7. Equatorial Guinea: a 'tough nut' for the EU
  8. New EU ethics body and Moldova conference This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us