The Ethics Council of Germany reversed its evaluation of vaccination mandates Wednesday, coming out in support of mandatory injections for "significant portions" of the population, according to Deutsche Welles. Until now, the council has been opposed to requiring the shots for the public.
"Currently, the German health care system is reaching its limits in many places. Viral variants such as omicron and expected further variants of the virus are forcing experts to constantly reassess their estimates of the future course of the pandemic," the council wrote, according to DW.
The 24-member council approved the use of compulsory vaccinations with a narrow 13 vote majority; 20 of the members voiced support for less universal, more focused mandates in high-infection areas.
The council clarified that it did not approve of physical force to compel citizens to receive the vaccine.
The Ethics Council is an independent body outside the nation's government that publishes responses to "questions of ethics, society, science, medicine and law and the probable consequences for the individual and society that result in connection with research and development, in particular in the field of the life sciences and their application to humanity."
According to the council's website, its duties include "informing the public and encouraging discussion in society, preparing opinions and recommendations for political and legislative action for the Federal Government and the German Bundestag as well as cooperating with national ethics councils and comparable institutions of other states and of international organisations."
Germany announced new restrictions Tuesday that will begin after Christmas to slow the spread of the new omicron variant, rules that will fall short of a full lockdown but will include contact restrictions even for vaccinated people.
"I can understand anyone who doesn’t want to hear about the coronavirus, mutations and new virus variants," Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a press conference Tuesday evening. "But we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to this next wave."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.