Prime minister Xavier Bettel at the end of a debate in parliament on Wednesday announced that the government would file a draft law to introduce a vaccine mandate for over-50s and healthcare staff, following an expert recommendation.
“We’re in preparation,” said Tanson (Déi Gréng) in an interview with Radio 100,7, calling the draft a “precaution” in anticipation of the next wave of infections. Should time show that it’s not be needed, the mandate won’t come into force, she said, adding that many questions remain open.
Refusing to follow the mandate once adopted will be possible, said Tanson, adding that “this freedom to refuse has consequences”, as there could be fines for those refusing to get the vaccine. Whether a one-time fine or repeated fines should be imposed is one of the topics to be addressed in the draft law.
Bettel (DP) last year had requested a debate with lawmakers as the vaccination rate in Luxembourg stagnated and increasingly restrictive measures--such as the CovidCheck regime--failed to raise the number of vaccinated.
While vaccination does not fully protect from infection, it protects from severe illness and death, an expert council had said on 14 January, with the largest risk group to suffer complications being those over 50. A vaccine mandate would help protect them but also the healthcare sector, the council said. Mandatory vaccination of healthcare staff would meanwhile further help protect vulnerable groups, they had said.
Tanson identified two clear aims for the mandate, namely “the protection of the general health” as less covid-19 patients in the country’s hospitals would allow more treatments of other patients. The second aim is to be able to lift restrictions that have controlled social and professional interactions since the start of the pandemic. “Of course, this only works once the vaccine mandate shows its effects,” she said.
Other questions of ethics, solidarity and the “message that is sent” by a vaccine mandate, are also looked at, the minister said.
“The aim is of course that the vaccine mandate can come into force as quickly as possible.” Although it would be preferable not to have to impose it, being ready to counter another wave is necessary. “Should the necessary criteria be checked, as they are today, the vaccine mandate will come into force,” Tanson concluded. If the situation improves, it might not be needed.
The focus for the upcoming months will be to prepare the draft law, she said. Bettel this week said it should be voted before the summer so that people can get their jabs before the next autumn-winter wave.