Worried about poisoning her party's chances of winning yet another term in power following her retirement in elections set for later this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed calls for mandatory vaccinations after French President Emmanuel Macro said he would require health-care workers to be vaccinated.
Merkel said Germany is determined to avoid a fourth wave of the pandemic, but as cases involving the Delta variant continue to rise, Germany says it won't follow France and Greece with more restrictive vaccine requirements.
"The more people are vaccinated, the more free we will be again, the more freely we will be able to live again," she said. "We are in the phase where we are still promoting vaccines voluntarily, and my request to you all is to make the case for the vaccine, everywhere there are people who know and trust each other."
Germany's RKI says 43% of Germans have been fully vaccinated while just under 60% have received at least one shot. "We are seeing only a very small section of the populace where...they won’t let themselves be vaccinated," said Dr. Lothar Wieler, the president of the RKI, placing their number at under 10%.
German federal health minister Jens Spahn says that, unlike the early days of the vaccination program, there are no more vaccine supply problems, and therefore, "no excuses" for adults who haven't been vaccinated (ignoring the fact that Germany has one of the largest populations of vaccine skeptics in Europe).
"Whoever doesn’t let themselves be vaccinated today cannot complain tomorrow that he isn’t invited to a party," said Spahn, predicting growing social pressure on the unvaccinated.
Spahn is calling on German sports and culture clubs to boost vaccinations by arranging for appointments with local doctors. Starting Friday, they will make drive-in vaccinations available at a Berlin Ikea furniture store.
Some advisors to the government are demanding that Merkel and the federal government do more to try and protect young students who have yet to be vaccinated.
"We need mandatory vaccination for personnel in schools and nurseries," said Prof Wolfram Henn, a geneticist and member of the German Ethics Council. "Anyone who chooses of their own free will to work with vulnerable people takes on a special professional responsibility."
And a government spokesperson said that while vaccinations have dramatically lowered Germany's risk, the country isn't out of the woods just yet.
“Of course vaccinations have changed the total picture,” said Steffen Seibert, government spokesman, “but we are still not adequately armed for a situation where numbers begin to rise again sharply.”
Meanwhile, over in Greece, vaccine skeptics gathered by the thousands to protest the government's latest attempt to coerce citizens into accepting the jab.