Merkel criticises Germany’s state leaders on Covid approach
Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, slapped down a request from Jens Spahn, the health minister, to take the jab which was temporarily halted in several EU countries last month over concerns about side effects. Germany, along with other member states, has since restarted using the Oxford-made vaccine, but scepticism of the shot remains.
Mr Spahn, 40, urged his ministerial colleagues over 60 to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca jab as part of confidence-building measures, however, Mr Seehofer refused to bow to pressure.
The 71-year-old is a member of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), the sister party of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
He told German newspaper Bild: “The answer to Jens Spahn’s request is: No!”
He added: “I will not be patronised.”
German interior minister Horst Seehofer has refused to take the AZ jab, defying pressure
German health minister Jens Spahn urged his older colleagues to take the AZ vaccine
Mr Spahn’s clarion call, made at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, was aimed at Mrs Merkel and five of her colleagues.
The 66-year-old Chancellor is among a small group of high-ranking politicians in the age bracket.
Olaf Scholz, the Vice-Chancellor and finance minister, and Peter Altmaier, the economics minister, also fall into the category.
This week saw Germany join a list of countries restricting the use of the AstraZeneca jab to people over 60 because of a risk of rare blood clots.
READ MORE: Germany fines and deports 3 British electricians
The Chancellor is being urged to take the AZ shot
Thirty-one cases of a type of blood clot were found among the 2.7 million Germans who had received the jab, the country’s medicines regulator said.
The move followed Canada’s decision to stop administering the jab to over 55s.
Mr Spahn’s call may not have gone down well with Mr Seehofer, but Stephan Weil, the 62-year-old minister-president of Lower Saxony, said he is willing to take the AstraZeneca shot.
And on Thursday German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 65, received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Guy Verhofstadt feared EU conflict with Russia [EXPLAINED]
BBC’s Katya Adler slams Germany vaccine mess ‘Merkel looked knackered’ [ANALYSIS]
Angela Merkel shamed: Chancellor told AstraZeneca move ‘over-reaction’ [REACTION]
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 65, receives the AZ jab on Thursday
Angela Merkel was initially praised for her handling of the Covid crisis when it began last year
While the German government initially won plaudits for its handling of the coronavirus crisis, a year on the country’s federal system is fraying.
As Europe grapples with a third wave of Covid and vaccine supplies are in short supply, the unity between Berlin and many state premiers is strained.
On Wednesday two state leaders in areas hit hard by the third wave called for a nationwide lockdown, warning the situation is “more serious than many believe”.
Bavaria’s conservative premier, Markus Söder, and the Green head of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, called for a collective approach.
But the heads of other states are keen to get their economies up and running once again, under pressure from business and voters.
North Rhine-Westphalia premier Armin Laschet, chairman of the CDU, is among those eager to open up as he looks ahead to the election in September.
Mrs Merkel is due to step down as chancellor later this year
Mrs Merkel is due to step down as Chancellor, ending her 16-year tenure, and Mr Laschet is tipped as a possible successor.
As a result of her impending resignation, Mrs Merkel doesn’t have to face the verdict of voters again, and therefore wants to double down with her push for tougher measures.
She has even publicly criticised Mr Laschet for his state’s loose policing of restrictions.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.