German lawmakers voted against requiring all residents over the age of 60 to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach support the bill and had regarded it as a compromise after MPs rejected the idea of requiring all adults in the country to get vaccinated.
Following approximately four hours of debate, the latest iteration of the vaccine mandate failed in a 378-296 vote.
“It is a very important decision, because now the fight against the coronavirus will be much harder in the autumn. No political finger-pointing will help,” Lauterbach said in a statement on Twitter after the vote. “In order to avoid unnecessary victims in the autumn, the attempt to put in place compulsory vaccination by then must nevertheless not end here.”
The right-wing Alternative for Germany party celebrated the bill’s defeat on the floor of the Bundestag.
“Imposing vaccinations on citizens violates the second article of the constitution, which guarantees citizens’ control over their own bodies, the AfD motion argued,” per Reuters.
Other critics said it was unnecessary because COVID-19 cases have consistently declined across the country.
The reported number of weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases peaked in Germany at about 1.6 million on March 21. World Health Organization data indicated there were 638,240 confirmed cases the week of April 2.
The agency reports that about 76% of the nation’s population has been fully vaccinated.
In March, German MPs agreed to end a number of pandemic-era restrictions. Germans could forgo masks in shops, restaurants, and schools although the mandate was still in effect for public transportation, hospitals, and longer-term care facilities.
“We can’t continue to shield the whole country to protect a small group of those unwilling to be vaccinated,” Lauterbach said to the media at the time.
As of April 1, the country no longer requires proof of vaccination before entering shops and restaurants.
Lauterbach announced in April that the quarantine requirement for people who test positive for the virus will be reduced from a mandatory 10 days to five. After facing backlash, the health minister dropped the plan, saying he had made a mistake, per DW.
German law does require all hospital, retirement home, and nursing home workers to be fully vaccinated against the virus.