COVID-19: Mandatory jabs are absolute last resort, says WHO Europe chief as several EU countries consider introducing them

The World Health Organisation’s top official in Europe has said mandatory coronavirus vaccinations are an “absolute last resort”, as several EU countries consider introducing them.

“Mandates around vaccination are an absolute last resort and only applicable when all feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said.

Several European countries are debating whether to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

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In November Austria announced it would make inoculations compulsory from 1 February, a move which led to large protests.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer said unvaccinated adults will remain in lockdown even after the country lifts its wider coronavirus measures for the general public on Sunday.

During the same month, Germany’s tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss said mandatory vaccines were “unavoidable”.

“The effectiveness of mandates is very context-specific,” Mr Kluge said.

He said public confidence and trust in authorities needed to be considered.

“What is acceptable in one society and community may not be effective and acceptable in another.”

Several countries have already made COVID vaccinations mandatory, including Indonesia, Micronesia and Turkmenistan.

Last week, head of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen said EU countries should consider mandatory vaccination to combat the Omicron variant.

She said it was “understandable and appropriate” for EU members to discuss mandatory vaccinations.

“How we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union? This needs discussion,” she said.

“This needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that I think has to be led.”

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said mandates may be needed in some countries but the UK’s vaccination programme was so successful it is unnecessary.

He told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “The rollout scheme of boosters is working very effectively and as a result, we have seen, not just in health terms, but also with the ability to come out of the lockdown, the economy bouncing back in a way that some of the other economies and countries around the world haven’t.

“I don’t think we want to crow about that but I think it shows we have the right balance in the UK and we should stick to our guns.”

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