EU weighs mandatory jabs as Omicron fears deepen
The Straits Times|December 02, 2021
One-third of EU population still unvaccinated; new variant has been found in at least 20 nations

BRUSSELS It is time for the European Union to “think about mandatory vaccination” against Covid-19, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday, while stressing that member state governments would decide.

“My personal position is... I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now,” she said, underlining that a third of the EU population of 450 million was still unvaccinated.

Several EU countries have already taken steps in that direction.

Austria has said it will make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory from Feb 1 and Germany is considering following suit.

Greece on Tuesday said jabs would be mandatory for over-60s, while France has said Covid-19 passes would be deactivated for all adults who have not had booster shots six months after their last jab, starting Jan 15.

Ms von der Leyen also said that the EU’s main Covid-19 vaccine provider, Pfizer-BioNTech, would have jabs available for children in the bloc in two weeks’ time.

The renewed urgency to vaccinate comes on the back of the emergence of the Omicron variant.

While it could take weeks to prove how infectious and resistant to current vaccines the new variant is, many countries have rushed to ramp up inoculation programmes, seeing them as the best line of defence.

The number of countries where Omicron has been found has grown to at least 20, raising questions about whether the pandemic is about to surge once more.

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