Luxembourg dithers on mandatory jabs for over 50s
Experts urge haste, but Parliament delays debate until last day before summer recess
Luxembourg lawmakers pushed back a debate on whether to make the coronavirus jab mandatory for people aged 50 or older, a decision that affects the 50,000 people in that group who are not or not fully vaccinated.
The delay until next week Thursday - the last day parliament meets before the summer recess - comes despite pressure from a panel of experts, who urged the government this week to move quickly to contain Covid-19.
The group of leading virologists and epidemiologists was in favour of mandatory jabs for people in the age group, though it dropped an earlier idea to also require healthcare workers to get the vaccination.
The mandate should come into force as soon as possible to prepare for the winter months, the experts said, when Covid-19 cases are expected to rise.
"The earlier you [introduce] it, the bigger the impact will be", Gérard Schockmel, a member of the expert group, told broadcaster RTL on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was due to tell parliament whether his government would follow the recommendation by the experts, but lawmakers postponed the debate until next Thursday, parliament's press said, with parties across the spectrum saying they needed more time to scrutinise the advice.
Bettel is now scheduled to appear next week Wednesday, with a debate taking place the following day - the last day before deputies leave for their holidays and the same day they are set to discuss a potential tax reform.
A vaccine mandate for those aged 50 and older would affect at least 30,000 people who have not had any jabs yet and 20,000 who have not had a booster shot, the panel said on Tuesday.
Waiting until an autumn wave of the disease hit would be "too late", Schockmel told the broadcaster. Rolling out the programme to thousands of people would take time, he said, given that it took five months to fully vaccinate a person who had received none of the three shots that others have.
A vaccine mandate could cut intensive care treatments almost completely if the Delta variant - dominant when the experts released their first opinion in January - were still around. But now that Omicron is the dominant strain, it would only reduce intensive care treatments by 9%.
"If the government does what it said it would do, then I would expect it would adopt our recommendation as they are. They said they would stick to what experts say. Now we will say how reliable those statements are", he said .
Luxembourg has registered 1,094 deaths with Covid-19.