German Language Blog

Does Germany Need an Impfpflicht? Posted by on Jan 14, 2021 in Language

In the last few weeks, Impfstoffe (vaccines) against the Coronavirus have been rolled out around the world. However, the rate at which Impfungen (vaccinations) have been administered caused a lot of concern. Also in Germany. With 1207 deaths in one day, the country saw a new record; and yet, the amount of people that are open to an Impfung remains unsatisfactorily low – at least, that’s what some believe. Let’s look at the Debatte (debate) on the Impfpflicht (vaccination obligation) and how it got one Anwärter (contender) to become Merkel‘s Nachfolger (successor) in some hot waters.

Impfpflicht or Impfzwang?

Impfpflicht Vaccine Coronavirus

Image by Hakan Nural at

Now that there is an Impfstoff, should people be forced to get it? An Impfpflicht could make sure that everybody gets vaccinated and that Coronamaßnahmen (corona measures) could be loosened earlier. However, such an Impfzwang (vaccination compulsion), as some prefer to call it, also removes the choice to get the Impfung.

The argument put against this is that some Impfungen are obligatory already in Germany, such as the Masern-Schutzimpfung (Measles protection vaccination). So it is not entirely foreign to force Bürger (citizens) to get an Impfung.

However, this is the exception, and most Impfungen are freiwillig (voluntary).

Söder’s Vorstoß

Bavaria’s Ministerpräsident (Prime Minister), Markus Söder, brought new life into the debate about an Impfpflicht. He pushed for one after learning that up to 50 percent of Ärzte (doctors) and Pfleger (caretakers) do not want to get the Impfung (yet). Also many Ältere (elderly) show a low Impfbereitschaft (vaccination willingness). This does not mean that they’re all so-called Impfgegner (vaccination contrarians). Especially in this crowd, there is some Vorsicht (prudence) regarding the Impfung, as it was developed so rapidly, and they’ve seen their share of medicine development to know that this is really fast. For them, it’s simply a matter of abwarten (waiting) to see if it is really effective and that there no serious Nebenwirkungen (side effects).

Nonetheless, the potential Nachfolger of Angela Merkel, Söder, believes an Impfpflicht is the right way forward. He said:

Der deutsche Ethikrat sollte sich damit beschäftigen. Und wie Sie wissen gibt es ja bereits auch in anderen Bereichen eine Impfpflicht, zum Beispiel bei Masern. Und wenn Sie jetzt mal vergleichen, Masern mit Corona, ist die Gefahrenbedeutung von Corona natürlich deutlich höher. Also da brauchen wir schon eine gesellschaftliche Debatte darüber.

(The German Ethics Council should discuss this. And as you know, there is already a compulsory vaccination in other areas, for example measles. And if you compare measles with corona, the danger of corona is of course much higher. So we need a debate about it in society.)

Widerspruch against the Impfpflicht

However, the Ethikrat itself doesn’t appear to feel much for an Impfpflicht, and think that a freiwillige Impfung will be a success. However, they do have a discussion about it.

Furthermore, Söder’s idea got Widerspruch (dissent) from within the own Kabinett (cabinet) and the Opposition (opposition). Bundessozialminister (Federal Minister of Social Affairs) Hubertus Heil from the SPD party said: “Ich halte den Weg für richtig, dass wir keine Impfpflicht einführen.” (I think the right way is that we don’t introduce a compulsory vaccination).

Also different Gewerkschaften (unions), like Verdi, spoke out against the Pflicht. However, they still advocate for people to get vaccinated.

Is this a good idea? Maybe, maybe not. The Senioren-Union, the elderly wing of Merkel and Söder’s party union of CDU and CSU, also agreed with Söder, but also said: “Falls eine gesetzliche Impfpflicht nicht möglich sein sollte, gilt eine moralische Impfpflicht” (if a legal vaccination requirement is not possible, a moral vaccination requirement applies). Perhaps that’s as far as this goes. A nice Pro und Contra (in favor and against) about the topic of the Immunitätsausweis (immunity pass) was published on Der Tagesspiegel. This also goes a bit into the need for an Impfpflicht. Read the Pro here, and the Contra here.

How is it done in your country? Let me know in the comments below!


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Michael Q:

    Sten, thanks for such a timely and useful article. I’ve been reading in the German press about the debate, but I knew I was missing much of the nuance, especially the politics of it. Your post can’t make me an expert, but it helps!

    • Sten:

      @Michael Q Hi Michael,

      I’m glad it helped you! For current debates, it also helps if you search “Impfpflicht” with “Söder” or “Ethikrat”. I can also really recommend DW, as they have both german and english articles for many of their stories.