Why An Open, Transparent, Informed Debate About Mandatory Vaccination Is All But Impossible in the EU

There is just too much murkiness for anyone, including MEPs, to reach anything like an informed decision. 

It is time for the EU to start thinking about mandatory vaccination. That was the message issued last Wednesday (Dec. 1) by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as Europe once again becomes ground zero for the Covid-19 pandemic. Austria has already unveiled plans to mandate vaccines for every resident in the country over the age of 12, becoming the first European nation to take such a step. Under the proposed bill, anyone who refuses to get the Covid-19 jab after February 1, 2022, will face a fine of up to €600 every three months.

The German government is also considering taking a similar step after it recently imposed tougher restrictions on unvaccinated people in the country. In Greece, which already has some of the highest poverty rates in Europe, authorities have said they will start fining unvaccinated people over the age of 60 €100 for every month they remain unjabbed after January 15. Almost two-thirds of of Greece’s 11-million population is fully vaccinated but more than 520,000 people over 60 still haven’t had the jab.

“Greeks over the age of 60… must book their appointment for a first jab by January 16,” the premier said in a statement to the cabinet. “Their vaccination is henceforth compulsory.”

A Huge Can of Worms

Van der Leyen’s proposal to discuss EU-wide mandatory vaccination opens up a huge can of worms. How will the governments of the EU’s 27 member states go about forcing, in most cases, a large minority — and in cases such as Romania and Bulgaria a sizeable majority — of the population to take vaccines against their will that have already proven to be incredibly leaky against the Delta variant? The way things are current looking, the vaccines could well be even less effective against a variant like Omicron, with such a large number of mutations.

The overwhelming body of evidence does suggest that the current crop of vaccines do reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death resulting from Covid-19. But is that enough in and of itself to justify obligating virtually an entire continent to take them? What sort of exemptions on medical, ethical or religious grounds will be allowed? What sorts of punishments or privations will be meted out to those who continue to refuse to take the vaccine?

Once the precedent of universal mandatory vaccination in the EU is established, will it be extended to other already existing vaccinations such as the flu jab or new vaccinations that come on line in the coming years? That would represent a huge windfall for pharmaceutical companies developing innovative gene therapies.

The Covid-19 vaccinations have already generated bumper profits for their manufacturers. As Oxfam recently reported, the companies behind two of the most successful COVID-19 vaccines — Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna — are making combined profits of $65,000 every minute.” Even as the vaccines’ efficacy against the Delta variant has come under the spotlight, the manufacturers have still managed to sharply increase their prices, as EUObserver reports:

As per their latest deals with the EU, Pfizer, and Moderna can now respectively charge €19.50 and $25.50 [€22] for jabs. Europeans were paying between €15.50 and $22.50 in the first orders. Yet, one study by Imperial College London shows that mRNA shots could be produced for as little as $1.18.     

Mission creep has certainly infected the EU’s vaccine passport system. In its own regulation 2021/953, the EU stated that “[t]he issuance of [Covid] certificates… should not lead to discrimination on the basis of the possession of a specific category of certificate”. This basic principle was reiterated by Resolution 2361 (2021) of the Council of Europe, Europe’s foremost human rights organisation. Yet many EU Member States have used the EU’s Green Pass legislation to justify visiting unprecedented discrimination upon those who do not possess a vaccine certificate, with both Austria and Germany even going so far as declaring a so-called “lockdown of the unvaccinated.” 

The long-term risks of the vaccines are also as yet unclear. More than a million adverse events have already been reported to the European Database of Suspected Adverse Drug Reaction Reports (EUdraVigilance), the EU’s equivalent of VAERS. In addition, the EU — like most jurisdictions — has granted the vaccine manufacturers wide-scale immunity from liability if anything goes wrong. As such, any compensation for vaccine injuries will probably have to come from the respective national governments. 

These are all major issues that will hopefully be taken into consideration in any public debate about mandatory vaccination. Unfortunately, under the current state of affairs it is all but impossible for the European Union to hold an open, transparent discussion on these issues, since most EU lawmakers do not even have the necessary information at their disposal to reach a sound, informed decision. In many cases they do not even know who has been negotiating the deals with the vaccine makers on behalf of EU citizens. 

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