Status: 01/15/2022 10:49 a.m
Vaccination is already compulsory in the Bundeswehr. The basis is the Soldiers Act. Anyone who stubbornly refuses faces penalties ranging from arrest to dismissal.
Sergeant Sergeant Sonja Silberkuhl has been on duty since early morning. She is on duty at the vaccination center at the Deins-Bruchmüller barracks in Lahnstein, Rhineland-Palatinate. Waqas Anjam, Staff Sergeant, is sitting on the treatment table in Vaccination Room 4. The soldier has already freed his upper arm, and Silberkuhl is giving him the booster vaccination against Covid-19.
There are open consultation hours in the vaccination center of the barracks, the servicewomen and men can come to the vaccination without an appointment. The vaccination offer is aimed at the approximately 10,000 soldiers who are stationed around Koblenz.
“The rush today is manageable compared to the past few weeks,” reports Sergeant Sergeant Silberkuhl. “In December we were almost overrun.”
A “basic vaccination subject to tolerance”
The vast majority of soldiers in the region have now been vaccinated at least twice, says a Bundeswehr spokeswoman. One reason may be that the Covid 19 vaccination has been mandatory since November. It was added to the Bundeswehr’s list of basic vaccinations that require toleration. There are six other vaccinations on this list, for example against measles, hepatitis, rabies or influenza.
According to the Soldiers’ Act, “the soldier must do everything in his power to maintain his health” and must tolerate certain medical measures “against his will if they serve to prevent or combat communicable diseases,” says paragraph 17a.
Education by medical professionals in the vaccination center of the barracks.
There are also vaccine skeptics at the federal level
Of course, there are also vaccine skeptics within the troops, says the spokesman for the Bundeswehr Medical Service Command, Lieutenant Colonel Matthias Frank. After all, the Bundeswehr is a reflection of society – and soldiers are also concerned about the safety and tolerability of the Covid 19 vaccines.
“However, I believe that we were able to provide good information here with our medical specialists and allayed the soldiers’ fear that there would be any complications or long-term effects,” says Lieutenant Colonel Frank.
According to Frank, soldiers are at an increased risk of infection because they live together in the barracks. In this respect, the inclusion of Covid-19 on the list of vaccinations that require a permit is also an expression of the Bundeswehr Medical Service’s duty of care.
Not a discussion, but an order
In any case, there are no discussions about whether a soldier tolerates the prescribed vaccinations or not. “The armed forces are built on orders and obedience, on functioning structures. And to that extent it is an order for every soldier and he has to obey this order.”
Anyone who defies this order must expect disciplinary measures, the lieutenant colonel continued. These ranged from reprimands to fines to removal from service. Disciplinary arrest can also be imposed in order “to get the soldier to think about vaccination. Unlike civil society, the Bundeswehr has these ways.”
But Frank also emphasizes that the willingness to vaccinate in the troops is extremely high and vaccination refusers or corona deniers and so-called lateral thinkers are the exception.
Of course, the topic of Covid-19 vaccination is “sometimes controversially discussed” among soldiers, says the chairman of the Bundeswehr Association, Colonel André Wüstner. But most of them had already been vaccinated before November. Soldiers in action even 100 percent. Overall, it shows again: “Soldier is just not a job like any other.”
On average 94 percent vaccinated
According to the Federal Ministry of Defense, an average of 94 percent of soldiers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or have recovered. This is the result of a preliminary survey.
For Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, this quota is a “sign of great discipline within the troops, but also of solidarity towards our society as a whole.”
According to Lambrecht, those who refuse to vaccinate are a “tiny minority that in no way represents the Bundeswehr as a whole”. “We will resolutely confront these people who consciously place themselves outside the camaraderie,” announced the SPD politician.
Certain duties as a soldier
Simon Beckert has just received his booster vaccination at the Lahnstein vaccination center. He is a frigate captain, but is currently stationed in Koblenz. For him, the obligation to tolerate being a soldier is part of it: “As a soldier, you have certain obligations that go beyond the obligations of normal citizens.” That’s okay too. But for civil society he rejects compulsory corona vaccination.