By Tuesday (15 March), workers in the care and medical sectors in Germany must prove that they have been vaccinated against coronavirus or have recovered. Otherwise, they will theoretically no longer be able to work in these establishments.
However, particularly in Saxony, the state with the lowest vaccination rate, enforcement of this obligation is not easy. Below you will find the most important questions and answers regarding mandatory vaccinations in the care and medical sector in Germany.
Who is covered by mandatory vaccination in Germany?
All employees in German hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, care centers and emergency services must be vaccinated. This applies not only to nurses and doctors, but also to administrative staff who have contact with patients, vocational school students, volunteers and employees of external companies. However, vaccinations must only be given to people who regularly work at the facility.
How is the mandatory vaccination procedure in Germany?
Employees at the above-mentioned facilities must prove to their employers by March 15 that they have been fully vaccinated, have recovered, or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. If they fail to do so, the facility must report the lack of proof to the health department within two weeks of Wednesday – usually through an electronic reporting portal provided by the Department of Health. The Health Department is supposed to give facilities four weeks to submit evidence.
What are the deadlines for mandatory vaccinations in Germany?
If a person is still missing two vaccinations, they must provide proof of the first vaccination within four weeks. Proof of the second vaccination must be provided within two months. There are no deadlines for newly hired employees: anyone who takes a new job after March 16 must provide proof of a full vaccination to their employer before starting work, or they will not be allowed to start.
Fines of up to €2,500 for not providing proof of vaccination
If workers fail to provide proof of full vaccination despite being asked, health authorities can fine them up to €2,500 or ban them from the workplace. However, to do so, the safety of the supply must first be checked and the person and facility concerned must be heard. Such individual case-by-case processing can take time – according to its own information, the Zwickau district alone expects 5,000 reports of unvaccinated workers.
When might there be sanctions for the unvaccinated?
It is unclear when health authorities will actually impose sanctions. The district of Bautzen, for example, says there are no concrete estimates at the moment because the war in Ukraine has brought new tasks for the municipality. The district of Leipzig expects preliminary decisions “not before the beginning of summer.” The North Saxony district said the anticipated date is “no earlier than the end of July.”
What is the vaccination rate among employees?
According to Health Minister Petra Köpping (SPD), about a third of the 300,000 people are currently unvaccinated. However, vaccination rates vary widely from sector to sector – university hospitals, for example, have been quite relaxed recently, while nursing services are sounding the alarm. There are also regional differences: “In the Leipzig region the rate is quite good. In the region of East Saxony, far fewer employees have been vaccinated,” – Friedrich München, deputy managing director of the Saxon Hospital Association, said.
Providing patient care a priority
Health Minister Petra Köpping (SPD) recently stressed that providing care in nursing homes and hospitals is a priority. There are facilities where staff have very low vaccination rates. If the safety of care would be threatened, unvaccinated staff would not be banned from entering the facility, Köpping said. This is also stated in executive instructions issued by the state to health authorities, who are required to implement the law.
Are care and medical workers in Germany now laying off?
According to the Employment Agency in Germany, some 8800 workers in the care and medical sector in Saxony have registered as job seekers since December 2021 – 6,000 more than usual, the agency estimates. Various reasons were given – for example, that they had reached their limits during the second wave of the pandemic in winter. So far, however, there have been no major waves of layoffs, as the Saxon Hospital Association, the Employee Assistance Association (Arbeiterwohlfahrt, Awo) and the Diakonia confirmed when asked. “Many people are waiting for further action by the health authorities” – A Diakonia spokeswoman said.