European Union mulling mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations

After two dozen countries have reported cases of the omicron variant, the European Union (EU) countries might be headed towards mandatory vaccination to fight the spread of COVID-19, according to head of EU commission.

Given only a third of the EU population is still unvaccinated, the head of EU commission Ursula von der Leyen said, “My personal position is… I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes a statement on camera regarding Brexit negotiations, after a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at EU headquarters in Brussels, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (Julien Warnand)

The EU has increased travel restrictions since the variant was first reported and as cases continue to spike across Europe, according to a recent report.

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On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the variant B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern, also called omicron, based on the evidence that omicron has several mutations that may increase its chance of transmissibility.

Closeup of Ruffled European Union Flag, European Union Flag Blowing in Wind. The EU is considering prohibiting Americans from traveling to its member countries as it begins to reopen its borders over coronavirus conditions in the United States.

Closeup of Ruffled European Union Flag, European Union Flag Blowing in Wind. The EU is considering prohibiting Americans from traveling to its member countries as it begins to reopen its borders over coronavirus conditions in the United States.

But the WHO reiterated, it’s unclear if the omicron variant is indeed more transmissible or weather it causes more severe disease compared to other variants, including delta.

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“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with omicron. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with omicron are different from those from other variants,” according the Sunday press release.

“Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the omicron variant will take days to several weeks.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. The European Union's executive commission has proposed European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis to take over the post of EU trade commissioner following the resignation of Ireland's Phil Hogan. (Aris Oikonomou, Pool Photo via AP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. The European Union’s executive commission has proposed European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis to take over the post of EU trade commissioner following the resignation of Ireland’s Phil Hogan. (Aris Oikonomou, Pool Photo via AP)

Some EU states are proactively taking steps towards mandatory vaccination, including Austria, which announced mandatory vaccinations from February next year, while Greece is levying fines against those who are unvaccinated over the age of 60 years old. France announced COVID-19 passes will be deactivated for those adults who have not received boosters, starting in mid January, according to the BBC report.

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“The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 meter from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s their turn,” according to the WHO press release.

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