German vaccination hesitancy

Published : 21 Nov 2021 08:32 PM

By early November 2021, Germany’s Corona infection numbers reached new highs. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) registered 40,000 new infections within 24 hours, the 7-day average climbed to 30,000, the 7-day “incidence” (infection rate) to 232.1 – that measures infections per 100,000 people. German officials use simple numbers – they are not percentages. This infection rate or incident rate indicates the probability, likelihood or risk of a Corona infection in the population of Germany. It measures the frequency of occurrence Corona infections within the German population during a set time period. The “rate of infection” = the number of infections divided by the number of those at risk of an infection.

By mid-November 2021, this number, according to Germany’s most recognized news broadcaster “Die Tagesschau” was above 300. Meanwhile, the total number of all infections had risen to over 50,000. All these indicators were markedly higher than two years ago, at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Germans are increasingly worried about the stratospheric growth rate just before the beginning of the 4th Corona wave. The RKI notes that vaccinated people are currently still four times less likely to develop symptoms of Covid-19 than unvaccinated people. If infection numbers continue to rise – so will the number of deaths.

At the end of Germany’s 1st wave (2020), about 4.5% of newly infected people had died, at the 2nd wave it was 2.5%. In the 3rd wave, which was not quite as serious because of the vaccinations already in effect in the spring of this year, about 1.5% died.

Even if this rate would fall to about 1% during the current 4th wave, around 5,000 people will die in the coming weeks. With currently around 30,000 new infections per day, a death rate of 1% means that around 300 deaths will be added every day. Given all this, Germany’s foremost virologist Christian Drosten warned,

if there is no progress in vaccination, Germany must prepare for at least 100,000 more corona deaths before the waters calm down. This is a conservative estimate. Even though the link between vaccination and death during a pandemic is well known, and we also know that vaccinating people saves lives, only around 70% of all Germans have been vaccinated. Ironically, Germany is the country that invented the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine. Well, the vaccine was actually invented by two Turkish migrants. So much for those who reject migration and people of the Muslim faith. Yet, despite Germany’s advancements in science, about 30% of all Germans remain unvaccinated. As a consequence, the issue of mandatory vaccination is hotly debated.

According to a recent poll on party affiliation and mandatory vaccination, 56% of those who voted for Merkel’s conservative CDU support the mandatory vaccination of all Germans. Among social-democratic SPD supporters, the percentage is 54%. This is just a tick below neoliberal FDP voters (52%). Meanwhile, 46% supporters of Germany’s only socialist party, The Linke, favor mandatory vaccination, while 44% voters of Germany’s environmental, Die Grünen, support mandatory vaccination.

Less than 1/3 of Germany’s Neo-Nazi AfD support it (31%). This is slightly less than those who do not vote at all (32%). In other words, around half of all voters of Germany’s major political parties (SPD, CDU, FDP, Greens, and the Left) support mandatory vaccination.

Yet, despite Germany’s advancements in research and science, Germany does not have any mandatory vaccination. In addition, Germany remains a country with plenty of anti-vaxxers and adjacent conspiracy fanatics. By 2021, the refusal to get vaccinated had become so bad that Germany’s foremost trade union peak body – the DGB – felt the need to issue a pro-vaccination brochure investigating vaccination hesitancy, Covid-19 protesters, and their links to Germany’s right-wing extremists. From a democratic point of view, it may appear legitimate to question encroachments on personal rights in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. From a trade union’s point of view, it remains necessary to ensure that government measures against the Coronavirus pandemic are not taken unilaterally to the detriment of employees.

On March 18, 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared, “since the Second World War, there has been no challenge to our country that depends so much on our joint solidarity action.” On this basis, a number of government measures had to affect personal freedoms in order to protect society from the virus.

Yet, its umbrella organization, the Anthroposophic Medicine in Germany says, “Anthroposophic medicine is participating in the fight against the Corona virus.” Similarly, “Homeopaths Germany” says, “we strongly advise all our members to adhere to the specifications of the RKI .” The RKI is Germany’s version of the USA’s CDC.

QAnon also campaigned against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats cooking up pizzagate. Not far off from QAnon, is the antisemitism of German anti-vaxxers. The so-called global elite is not just seeking to create a New World Order, but this also includes Bill Gates and George Soros. This ideology is based on a world run by powerful puppet masters. It too has anti-Semitic connotations. Quite often, this is accompanied by excessive hostility to science and the press.

Today, anti-Jewish traditions come to light in QAnon fairy tales. One of the oldest anti-Semitic stereotypes is that of the child molester and ritual killer. These stories were once invented to justify pogroms against Jews. With German anti-vaxxers they re-appear and are re-shaped, once again, by German anti-vaxxers.

Then as today, Germany’s Neo-Nazis invite everyone to take part in their fight against the democratic state. This includes, of course, their very own Neo-Nazis and the Reichsbürger, but also Germany’s three Neo-Nazi parties: the NPD, Die Rechte, and the more brutal, The Weg III.

AfD mini-Führer Tino Chrupalla, his vice-Führer Stefan Brandner, and Swiss Lesbian Alice Weidel quickly hammered the anti-vaxxer drum for publicity. AfD man Thomas Röckemann and supporter of the AfD’s even more far-right wing – der Flügel – believes that Germany is approaching a dictatorship with giant steps, as he says. Meanwhile, numerous AfD party officials publicly joined forces with Neo-Nazis, Reichsbürger, anti-Semites, esoteric illusionists, and anti-vaxxer conspiracy believers.

Inside Germany’s parliament, the AfD called for the establishment of an investigative committee on the Corona pandemic arguing that Germany’s federal government had massively intervened in the constitutionally protected rights of citizens and the economy through the lockdown. In short: The AfD is trying to make political use of anti-vaxxer rallies against the state’s Corona measures. The AfD sought to harness anger channeling it into her right-wing populist agenda. This did not quite work out as the AfD’s support declined in a recent German election.

Undeterred and lacking another issue to frighten people, the AfD still sees itself as a natural ally of anti-vaxxers offering a similar potpourri of anti-democratic ideologies. The AfD’s Hansjörg Müller, for example said, “we have a government that has abolished democracy through emergency regulations. It has established a Corona dictatorship. Our political system must be returned from dictatorship to a democratic system.” The AfD is presenting Germany as a dictatorship which is most obviously nonsense. This links the ideology of the AfD to the ideology of the violent Reichsbürger. The party actively contributes to the radicalization of Corona protests.

In the end, German trade unions are concerned that a far-reaching anti-democratic and right-wing radicalization is emerging in sections of anti-vaxxers’ protests. This is made worse through an increasing spread of conspiracy narratives in popular online platforms. Much of this is accompanied by a rejection of state protective measures to contin the Coronavirus pandemic. German anti-vaxxers propagate neoliberalism’s ideology of a right to maximum self-realization even when this comes at the expense of the weak, the elderly, the poor, etc. This is where neoliberalism’s ideology meets fascist social-Darwinism.

The deeply Social-Darwinistic ideology of Germany’s right-wing extremist anti-vaxxers demands that only the stronger survives the pandemic. German anti-vaxxers and its dehumanizing ideology should serve as a dire warning. German trade unions forewarn us that we should keep in mind that democracy is fragile and in need of protection.

Yet, there is also a danger that, if the crisis continues to escalate, a political void could open up, which might be filled by right-wing extremists’ ideologies such as, for example, conspiracy thinking, Social-Darwinism, and nationalism. This can lead to an authoritarian mass mobilization against democracy.

One of the challenges of trade unions is to prevent this through emancipatory education, decisive resistance against anti-democratic forces, and through a commitment to a solidarity-based and socially-just prevention of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Thomas Klikauer (MAs, Boston and Bremen University and PhD Warwick University, UK) teaches MBAs and supervises PhDs at the Sydney Graduate School of Management, Western Sydney University, Australia.  Meg Young (GCA and GCPA, University of New England at Armidale) is a Sydney Financial Accountant & HR Manager who likes good literature and proof reading. 

Source: CounterPunch