MPs in Germany have passed a law forcing healthcare staff to get a COVID vaccine.
It means everyone who works in hospitals and retirement and nursing homes must be vaccinated or have recovered from COVID. Personnel from facilities for the disabled, day clinics, medical offices, emergency services or socio-educational centres are also affected.
The new law, approved by a large majority in the Bundestag, comes ahead of moves to try and extend the requirement to the entire population early next year.
It states that health professions have a "special responsibility" because they are "in close and intensive contact with groups of people at high risk for infection and serious or fatal disease progression".
Healthcare staff will have until March 15, 2022, to prove they have been fully vaccinated or risk being suspended from work.
Several medical facilities, including nursing homes in Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, have been the focus of new coronavirus contamination in recent weeks, with a high number of deaths among residents. The chain of contamination has sometimes been triggered by an unvaccinated employee, reviving the debate on mandatory vaccination for all.
While data on these occupations remain incomplete, medical staff are on average more vaccinated (nearly 90%) than the general population (69.3%), according to the Robert Koch Institute.
With this decision, Germany joins other European countries such as France, Italy, Greece and the United Kingdom in introducing laws to mandate vaccination among healthcare professionals.
Struck by a new virulent wave, Germany plans to go further. New Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz plans to ask parliament to decide by the end of the year on mandatory vaccination for everyone, which, if approved, will take effect in February or March.
In a poll released on Friday, 68% of Germans voted in favour of the vaccination requirement for all adults, an increase.
However, authorities fear that this measure will anger the opponents of health restrictions, which have been mobilised in their thousands since the beginning of the pandemic.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned in the Spiegel on Friday that fines for those who refuse to be vaccinated would be "inevitable".