Compulsory vaccinations for doctors, nurses and co.: Rules in other European countries

Düsseldorf, Stockholm, London, Rome, Vienna, Athens While Germany is starting partial vaccination in mid-March, Great Britain is just abolishing it again. In November, London made vaccination mandatory in retirement homes and mobile care services.

The vaccination rate there has since risen from 77 to 94.5 percent. At the same time, however, it is estimated that tens of thousands of people have given up their jobs because they did not want to be vaccinated. In April, compulsory vaccination should be extended to employees of the national health service NHS. But a few days ago, the government overturned the plan.

Hospitals and health associations had warned that compulsory vaccination would exacerbate the acute shortage of doctors and nurses. Health Minister Sajid Javid also justified the reversal with the fact that the currently dominant omicron variant is milder than the previously dominant delta variant.

In addition, the vaccination protection in the population is now so high that the coercive measure can be dispensed with. From the government’s point of view, the announcement of compulsory vaccination has already promoted the willingness of NHS staff to be vaccinated. 95 percent would have received at least one vaccine dose. The unvaccinated care workers who were laid off last year are now allowed to return.

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The strategies for compulsory vaccination for nursing and health workers are currently different: Poland will be introducing them at the beginning of March. Italy and France are still sticking to it, Greece is even discussing tightening it.

50,000 euros fine in Greece

In Greece, vaccination is compulsory in the health sector. The employment ban for unvaccinated people in the area expires at the end of March. An extension has not yet been decided. However, there are considerations not only to release unvaccinated people from the sector unpaid for a limited period of time, but also to no longer employ them as a matter of principle. Health Minister Thanos Plevris spoke out in favor of this. He announced a final settlement by March 31.

strike in Greece

Healthcare workers demonstrated against compulsory vaccination last year.

(Photo: dpa)

Less than 5,000 employees are currently affected by the exemption. In addition, everyone in the sector must be boosted no later than seven months after the second vaccination.

In Greece there is also a central vaccination register. The authorities can call up the vaccination status of every citizen via the social security number or the tax ID. Nursing home operators who employ unvaccinated staff face very high penalties: 50,000 euros for the first violation, 200,000 euros for a repeat offense.

High vaccination rates in the health sector in Italy and France

In Italy, lawsuits against the occupational vaccination requirement that started in April 2021 have failed. Today only a fraction of the staff is unvaccinated, with doctors and dentists the rate is around 0.3 percent. There are still around 6,000 unvaccinated nurses, which corresponds to a rate of almost one percent.

Employers check the vaccination status. All hospitals, medical practices, pharmacies and care facilities must forward a list of employees to the regions. There, the vaccination status is checked, which is deposited with the tax authorities in Italy. Unvaccinated people are contacted directly by the local health authorities – and invited to immunization.

>> Read more: How can the general obligation to vaccinate be checked? Health insurance companies don’t want to play auxiliary police

Anyone who does not want to be vaccinated must provide proof of a medically justified exemption within five days. Without this proof, those affected will be suspended from work and their salary will be suspended. Only after the vaccination there is money again. The regulation is initially valid until June 15 of this year.

In France, too, employers have had to check vaccinations in the healthcare sector since September last year. Initially, the unvaccinated employees could still take holidays or days off in order to continue to be paid. After that, they were suspended without pay. Layoffs are not planned. Many were vaccinated quickly. In mid-October, the Ministry of Health assumed that 99 percent of those in the health sector were vaccinated.

hospital in Italy

There are still about 6,000 unvaccinated nurses in Italy.

(Photo: imago images/Xinhua)

So far there is no end in sight for the measure. The Ministry of Health promises that the general vaccination card for everyone could expire at the end of March if the situation in the hospitals allows it. However, it is not clear whether this also affects the vaccination requirement for health workers.

In Poland, compulsory vaccination starts at the beginning of March

Poland’s government is hoping for a similar increase in vaccination rates as in Italy and France with the vaccination requirement for medical staff. Doctors and nurses must have a vaccine administered by March. However, the government has left it open what sanctions those who refuse to vaccinate will have to face.

Warsaw is struggling to fight the pandemic. The government is maneuvering, large parts of the population are even evading the obligation to wear masks whenever possible. Only around 60 percent of the population have now received at least one vaccination dose.

Vaccination not compulsory for healthcare professionals in Spain, Portugal and Northern Europe

In Spain, Portugal and large parts of northern Europe, vaccination is not compulsory for health professionals or even for the general population – nor is it planned. The Spanish Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, declared in early December after the EU Commission had debated compulsory vaccination: “Our situation is very different.”

The vaccination rate in Spain is one of the highest in Europe, with 91 percent of those over 12 who are fully vaccinated. This corresponds to 81 percent of the entire population. In the EU the value is 72 percent, in Germany 74 percent.

The Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa has also spoken out against compulsory vaccination. “Fortunately, this discussion doesn’t make sense in our country,” he said in early December. 91 percent of Portuguese are fully vaccinated.

In Northern Europe, too, compulsory vaccination in the healthcare sector is not considered necessary due to a comparatively high vaccination rate. However, some regions in Sweden have decided that medical staff in hospitals should be vaccinated.

Those who are not willing to do this are transferred to a position that is not open to the public, for example in administration. Another exception is Latvia: In the Baltic country, all professional soldiers and employees in the health sector and in educational institutions have had to be vaccinated since October last year. Anyone who refuses can be fired.

More: “Way out of the endless restriction spiral” – traffic light MPs present plans for compulsory vaccination

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