Vaccination push-back reaches Luxembourg parliament
A petition against "mandatory" vaccines gained enough signatures in just two days to put the issue on the agenda of parliament, even as Luxembourg's vaccination campaign already falls behind many of its European peers.
By Sunday noon, the petition, which will remain open for more than a month, had gathered around 5,000 supporters, more than the 4,500 threshold that needs to be met for it to be debated by lawmakers.
Making vaccines mandatory is a “hindrance to individual freedom and human rights”, the petition states. It also calls on the government not to discriminate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people.
“We absolutely must give citizens a free choice when it comes to health," wrote Christelle Pizzirulli, who launched the petition which opened for signatures on Friday. The petitions seeks to establish "the free choice of citizens to decide what they want to do or don't want to do for their health", she said.
The petition is being widely shared on social media groups, including some Luxembourgish ones sceptical of vaccines or who deny Covid-19, such as the Facebook page of the Expressis Verbis group, which hit the headlines earlier this year as one of its members became the Cargolux chairwoman.
Christianne Wickler eventually resigned from the website, linked to Covid-19 disinformation, after media started asking questions about whether it was consistent with her senior role at the state-backed air freight company.
Luxembourg has so far ruled out mandatory vaccinations, with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stressing he favours individual choice. Yet despite a number of easings of the pandemic restrictions, people still need a valid vaccine certificate - or proof of a negative test - to access certain venues and events.
Just 65.7% of the population in Luxembourg have received at least one vaccine dose, statistics from Oxford University's Our World in Data show, putting the country slightly below the EU average of 66.2%.
Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are all far outpacing the Grand Duchy. In Portugal and Spain, for instance, 87% and 80% of the entire population have received at least one dose respectively.
Earlier this week, parliament adopted the new Covid rules, which include scrapping free PCR tests and introducing the CovidCheck system for hospital patients and visitors. Luxembourg's Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CCDH) has criticised the new rules, fearing they will lead to discrimination against those who cannot, for instance, get a vaccine for medical reasons.
The government's aim is to encourage more people to be vaccinated in the hope that people "will tell themselves that vaccinations are more convenient," than having to pay for a PCR test every time they need to present a CovidCheck certificate, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has said.
In a Eurobarometer survey published last week, only 62% of Luxembourg residents said they found it was their civic duty to be vaccinated against Covid-19, behind Portugal, Spain, France, Germany and others.
Italy, which is also well ahead of Luxembourg in vaccinating residents, is set to introduce even stricter rules for non-vaccinated workers in October, to get as many people immunised as possible.
Numbers on Wednesday showed that none of the critically ill patients in hospitals with Covid in Luxembourg had been vaccinated.