The World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated that Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandates should be an “absolute last resort” in response to some European countries considering making vaccinations compulsory.
Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told reporters during a press briefing: “Mandates around vaccination are an absolute last resort, and only applicable when all feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted.”
According to the WHO official, “public confidence and public trust” in authorities and vaccination uptake must be considered before vaccine mandates are imposed on populations. He advised countries to hold imposing such mandates “if [they] haven’t reached out first to communities.”
Kluge admitted that vaccine mandates “had been proven effective in some environments” to increase vaccination rates. However, he reiterated that requiring vaccines is not a one-size-fits-all solution. “The effectiveness of [vaccine] mandates is very context-specific. What is acceptable in one society and community may not be effective and acceptable in another,” he said.
“Ultimately, mandates should never contribute to increasing social inequalities in access to health and social services.”
Kluge is not the only WHO official advising against draconian measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Back in October 2020, WHO special envoy on COVID-19 Dr. David Nabarro said in an interview with Spectator Chairman Andrew Neil that coronavirus lockdowns cause more harm than the disease it aims to address.
“We in the WHO do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus. Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” Nabarro said. “We may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year and at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance resources [and] protect health workers who are exhausted,” the envoy added. (Related: WHO reverses course, again: Lockdowns as primary response to COVID-19 now said to be “damaging”.)
Despite Kluge’s advice, a number of European nations still made vaccines mandatory. The Guardian reported that Austria will make COVID-19 injections mandatory beginning Feb. 1, 2022.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the mandate, adding that the government has been preparing the legal groundwork for the order. Austrians turning down the shot will face administrative fines, which can be converted into prison sentences if violators are unable to pay.
“For a long time, the consensus in this country was that we don’t want a vaccine mandate. In spite of months of persuasion, we have not managed to convince enough people to be vaccinated,” he said. The chancellor added that while implementing more stringent vaccine passport rules and testing requirements have started to make a difference, they “haven’t convinced enough” Austrians to get injected.
“We don’t want a fifth wave, we don’t want a sixth or a seventh wave,” Schallenberg added. Only 66 percent of Austrians have been fully vaccinated, according to The Guardian. (Related: Austria mandates COVID-19 vaccines for ALL residents; those who refuse will pay steep fines.)
Germany is also planning to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, a POLITICO report said. Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed support toward a vaccine mandate for all citizens, according to an official close to the new German leader.
The official told POLITICO that Scholz “signaled his sympathy for such a regulation,” adding that the mandate could come “at the beginning of February.” However, such a mandate would have to be approved by the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.
Germany also has a lower vaccination rate compared to its neighbors. Only 68.5 percent of Germans have completed their COVID-19 vaccination schedule, just slightly higher than Austria.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said mandating COVID-19 vaccinations was “understandable and appropriate.” But she added that there should be “discussion” about vaccine mandates in countries across the bloc.
“How can we encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the EU? This needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that, I think, has to be led,” von der Leyen said.