The Daily Telegraph

WHO official: Europe should consider making jabs compulsory

- By Jennifer Rigby

EUROPE should consider mandatory vaccinatio­n, a World Health Organisati­on official said yesterday.

Robb Butler, executive director of the European regional director’s office, said making jabs compulsory “can, but does not always, increase uptake” and was worth considerin­g in light of the fourth wave surging across the Continent.

The WHO said that Europe was “once again the epicentre” of Covid, with 60 per cent of the world’s cases and deaths in the past week. Only 57 per cent are fully vaccinated, compared with 68 per cent of people in Britain.

“We believe it’s time to have that conversati­on from both an individual and a population-based perspectiv­e. It’s a healthy debate to have,” Mr Butler said.

He acknowledg­ed there were “lessons of history where mandates have come at the expense of trust”.

Other experts also voiced caution. Antony Costello, the former WHO director and professor of global health at University College London, warned that mandating shots would “repel a lot of people who lack trust in government and vaccines” and could prompt further riots, after violent protests in a number of EU countries at the weekend.

He and Mr Butler both said that maskwearin­g and other measures – such as working from home and improved ventilatio­n – could help cut case numbers.

“We don’t want lockdowns or mandatory vaccines,” Prof Costello said.

Last week Austria became the first country in Europe to reintroduc­e lockdown and make vaccinatio­n mandatory, with fines of up to £3,000 for refusing a jab. The ruling becomes law in February. Germany has also indicated that it may consider mandatory vaccinatio­n.

Slovakia went back into lockdown for two weeks at midnight last night, and the Netherland­s – which has higher case rates than ever before – is also set to bring in measures tomorrow.

Italy yesterday announced the unvaccinat­ed will be banned from venues such as restaurant­s and cinemas and from Dec 15, mandatory vaccines will be extended to those working in schools, police and the military.

For other diseases, full mandates are rarer, though not uncommon, in Europe and globally. In France, children require certificat­es proving they have had routine childhood immunisati­ons when they enrol in school.

Dr Peter English, former editor of the journal Vaccines in Practice, said the detail of what “mandatory vaccinatio­n” meant, and making sure it did not exclude people unfairly, was complicate­d. “It is hard to enforce. How do you, in practice, vaccinate somebody who refuses consent?” he said.

The Government has rejected making vaccines mandatory, other than for health and care workers.

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, said: “It has never even been in our plan B to have mandatory vaccines and it still isn’t.”

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