EU state flip flops on mandatory vaccination
The Czech Republic has abandoned a mandatory vaccination scheme for those over the age of 60 and workers in certain sectors, with a new prime minister tossing the plan following a series of protests over the measure.
While a vaccine rule set by a previous government was set to take effect in March, ex-PM Andrej Babis has since been replaced by a new ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who now says the policy won’t be implemented after all.
“We’ve agreed that vaccination against Covid-19 won’t be mandatory,” Fiala said on Wednesday, arguing that around 90% of those who would have been covered under the requirement have already been immunized.
The prior administration ordered the mandate before it was replaced in December, amid a spike in cases linked to the Omicron variant. Deaths and hospitalizations only saw a brief uptick before falling, however – in line with evidence the mutation produces milder symptoms than previous strains. The rule would have applied to elderly residents, as well as healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters and medical students.
Earlier this month, thousands gathered in the Czech capital to protest the compulsory vaccination measure, mirroring similar demonstrations elsewhere in Europe. Just shy of 63% of Czechs are considered fully immunized, below the European Union average of 69.4%.
The decision to scrap the requirement came the same day UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that Britain’s Omicron surge had reached its peak, announcing that the country’s masking rules and Covid-19 ‘passport’ system would end next week. Instead, the government will merely “suggest” that residents don face masks in public, but will “no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear them.”