Luxembourgh Times

Mandatory jabs for healthcare staff on cards, says FHL head

Proposal to make vaccines compulsory for caregivers may come into force in Luxembourg, according to head of hospitals federation

Dr Philippe Turk, the president of the FHL, said the present 70% vaccination rate amongst healthcare staff was not enough

Dr Philippe Turk, the president of the FHL, said the present 70% vaccination rate amongst healthcare staff was not enough © Photo credit: Lex Kleren/archive

Vaccines could become compulsory for healthcare workers in Luxembourg, the head of the country’s federation of hospitals has said.

Around 70% of healthcare staff in Luxembourg have been vaccinated to date, but this is not enough and the government should make it obligatory, Dr Philippe Turk, the new president of the Federation of Luxembourg Hospitals (Fédération des hôpitaux luxembourgeois, FHL), told public broadcaster RTL on Monday.

Dr Turk said that the FHL is pushing to put the issue back on the table after a mandatory testing requirement for care homes and hospitals was dropped from legislation last month.

A proposal to make vaccination compulsory for healthcare staff is currently under consideration in France. In Luxembourg, workers in the sector who have not yet been vaccinated must take a test three times a week to check if they are carrying the virus. There is no basis in law for mandatory vaccinations in Luxembourg and the government has emphasised that inoculations remain strictly voluntary, after staff working with vulnerable patients at the rehabilitation clinic of Mondorf spa in the south of the country were told that they must get a Covid-19 shot or be assigned new tasks.

“The most important thing is the vaccination of the most vulnerable, in order to greatly reduce the pressure on hospitals in the event of a new wave… the more the virus circulates, the more mutations there will be, but effective vaccines reassure us,” said Dr Turk, who added however that the sector does “not expect a catastrophic situation linked to the Delta variant in the coming weeks".

A huge percentage of deaths from Covid-19 have been connected to care homes. Of the 507 fatalities from the virus last year, 241 had lived in housing offering care for the elderly, the Health Ministry reported to parliament in January.

The fact that 48% of all deaths last year happened among care home residents showed the government had been ineffective in protecting the elderly, among whom 52% of all deaths occurred in the pandemic's first six months, Claude Muller, a virology expert at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, told The Luxembourg Times in February.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is expected to remain in hospital until the end of the week after contracting Covid-19, is in a “serious but stable” condition, the government said in a statement on Monday.

The 48-year-old prime minister will stay in hospital for further observation due to low oxygen levels, the statement added. He will continue to work, coordinating government activities, but Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna will have signing authority while Bettel is recovering.

A decision is expected to be made on whether to amend or extend Luxembourg’s current Covid-19 restrictions at a government council meeting on Thursday. The existing regulations end the following Thursday, July 15.

Luxembourg will donate 350,000 doses of vaccines to countries where there is a severe shortage, through the global vaccine sharing programme, Covax, the government said on Tuesday.

The country will donate Johnson&Johnson, AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines in a bid to help the World Health Organisation (WHO) achieve its goal of vaccinating at least 10% of the population of each country by the end of September and at least 30% by the end of the year. Around 250 million doses are needed to achieve this 30% vaccination goal.

By the end of June, the European Union had shared 2.5 million doses with countries outside the bloc.