Background: Adequate immunity to COVID-19 apparently cannot be attained in Germany by voluntary vaccination alone, and therefore the introduction of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination is still under consideration. We present findings on the potential acceptance of such a requirement by the German population, and we report on the reasons given for accepting or rejecting it and how these reasons vary according to population subgroup.
Methods: We used representative data from the Socio-Economic Panel for the period January to December 2021. We linked the respondents’ answers concerning mandatory COVID-19 vaccination to information about their sociodemographic characteristics, state of health, political attitudes, and degree of confidence in the judicial and political systems. We analyzed these data using univariate, bivariate, and multivariate statistical methods.
Results: Just over half of the respondents (50.44% [49.08%; 51.79%]) favored mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. Among the supporters, the reason most frequently given (95.22% [94.45; 96.00]) was that, without such a requirement, not enough people would be vaccinated. Among the opponents of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination (49.56% [48.21%; 50.92%]), by far the most common reason given for opposing it was a desire to uphold individual freedom (91.36% [90.31%; 92.40%]). Persons supporting mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, on average, older than those who opposed it; they less commonly had an education beyond secondary school, were less healthy, tended to have no children, had centrist political views, and expressed more confidence in the political system. The largest difference between the two groups was that about 90% of supporters of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination were themselves vaccinated, compared to only about 62% of opponents.
Conclusion: The lack of consensus on this issue among politicians and physicians in Germany is reflected in a similar lack of consensus in the German population as a whole. A discussion of the appropriate understanding of individual freedom would be the most promising way to widen the acceptance of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. A commonly expressed conception of freedom that permits the deliberate endangerment of other people’s health seems morally questionable.