German soldiers will soon be required to get a COVID-19 jab, the defence ministry confirmed to AP on Tuesday, amid a growing debate over vaccine mandates.
The defence ministry said the coronavirus jab would be added to the list of vaccines soldiers must get, but the measure still needs to be formally added to regulations.
There were 1,215 active coronavirus cases in the military and the defence ministry’s civilian staff as of Monday. Two soldiers have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Germany has been reeling from a brutal fourth wave of COVID-19, with 45,326 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. There were also 309 deaths due to COVID-19.
Health minister Jens Spahn gave a stark warning on Monday that by the end of winter Germans will have “been vaccinated, recovered or died.”
About 68% of Germany’s population of 83 million has been fully vaccinated, far below the minimum threshold of 75% that the government is aiming for.
Some in the country are now supporting a vaccine mandate, as neighbouring country Austria has said they will do from February.
“The time has come for a vaccine mandate,” said an association representing doctors in Berlin on Tuesday.
But Spahn said that a mandate would not affect the current wave of the virus.
“We are not breaking this wave with mandatory vaccination. It would come much too late for the effect,” he said. “We now have to reduce contacts and act as a unified state.”
Around 52 per cent of Germans polled were in favour and 41 per cent were against a general vaccination requirement, a recent Insa survey for newspaper Bild am Sonntag showed.