(Bloomberg) -- The European Union should discuss whether mandatory vaccinations are needed to help fight the ongoing spike in Covid-19 cases, as well as the new omicron variant, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
“I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now -- how we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union,” she said during a news conference. “This needs discussion. This needs a common approach. But it is a discussion that I think has to be led.”
Germany’s incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz threw his support behind making Covid-19 vaccine compulsory and called for a parliamentary vote on the plan. Greece, meanwhile, is imposing a monthly fine of 100 euros ($114) on people over 60 who aren’t vaccinated, calling it a health fee.
The EU doesn’t have the authority to impose vaccination mandates, but can try to bring member nations together to agree on a joint approach.
The bloc decided against holding an emergency virtual leaders’ summit, according to an EU official. Instead, health ministers will meet Tuesday to discuss the Covid situation and EU leaders will address it at their next scheduled summit on Dec. 16, the official added.
Von der Leyen noted that 77% of adults in the EU are vaccinated, and that full vaccination and wide use of booster shots remain the best way to fight the pandemic.
The head of Europe’s drugs regulator told the European Parliament Tuesday it’s not known if adaptations of the vaccine will be needed to fight off omicron, but it would take the agency three to four months to authorize a new version from the start of development.
The EU is also advancing the delivery of vaccine doses for kids between 5 and 12, which were approved last week by the European Medicines Agency. Those deliveries will to EU nations will begin Dec. 13.
In response to omicron, the EU recommended Wednesday that member states review essential travel restrictions on a daily basis. Nations should pursue a coordinated approach and be prepared to impose any required controls, the EU said.
(Updates with context, other steps starting in fourth paragraph)
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