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Dentist facing charge for putting pressure on employees to get COVID-19 vaccine


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A German dentist was harshly criticised on social media platforms for putting pressure on his dental team to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, in the opinion of political leaders and ethics councils, a compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers could be possible in the near future. (Image: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)
Franziska Beier, Dental Tribune International

By Franziska Beier, Dental Tribune International

Mon. 18. January 2021


PFAFFENHOFEN AN DER ILM, Germany: Healthcare providers worldwide have started administering the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine. In many countries, dental teams are included in the first group eligible to receive it. Recently, a Bavarian dentist arranged vaccination appointments for his entire practice staff. However, he also threatened negative consequences for anyone who refused to be vaccinated. As no legal basis for such a requirement has yet been established in Germany, the dentist was reported to the authorities.

Many dental associations around the world are fighting for dental teams to be included in the first vaccination phase in order for them to be protected during dental treatments.  The Donaukurier, a Bavarian local daily newspaper, reported the case of a dentist who had planned to have all of his employees vaccinated for their own and for his patients’ protection. However, he announced that anyone who refused to receive the immunisation would be suspended from work without pay. After this statement, he was strongly criticised and may now face legal consequences.

Even though the dentist admitted to the newspaper that the wording of his message was inappropriate, he is still convinced that his approach was justified. “If one of my patients contracts SARS-CoV-2, I am responsible for it,” he told Donaukurier. “I strongly support this vaccination. Anyone who wants to work in a medical profession in the future will have to be vaccinated. The core of it is that all employees get the best protection,” he added. He had expected his employees to react positively to his vaccination appointment, he said, adding that he is willing to go to court.

Will there be a mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers?

Dr Markus Söder, minister-president of Bavaria, has advocated for a debate on a partial compulsory vaccination in order to increase the number of vaccinations. The compulsory vaccination would be for healthcare workers working in retirement and care homes. “If very few employees are willing to get vaccinated, this matter should be discussed,” he told Nordbayern. “The German Ethics Council should look into this,” he added. However, Söder emphasised that there will be no general compulsory vaccination.

According to theologian and philosopher Prof. Nikolaus Knoepffler, who is a member of the Bavarian Ethics Council, doctors and nurses who reject the vaccination violate their moral duty. “In my opinion, if someone works in a nursing profession or a medical profession, he or she violates this moral duty in several ways,” he said to Donaukurier. “Those who refuse the vaccination do not fulfil their function as a role model, which is to encourage others to get vaccinated, and they put others at risk,” he explained.

For employees in the health sector, a general vaccination requirement by the employer would be conceivable even without generally introduced compulsory vaccination, clarified Peter Betz, a labour lawyer in Pfaffenhofen, to Donaukurier. “Even the introduction of a general vaccination requirement for these occupational and personal groups is not out of the question. After all, there is already a general vaccination requirement for other infections. For example, the recently introduced compulsory vaccination against measles for certain groups of people and industries,” he continued.

However, at the moment, employers cannot require their employees to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, as this would interfere with the general right of personal and physical integrity protected by the German constitution. If an employer threatened to impose labour law-related consequences without a legal basis, this would be the criminal offence of coercion, said Betz.

Legal and personal consequences

The Bavarian dentist is now facing a criminal charge. The public prosecutor’s office is currently investigating whether there is sufficient evidence of a criminal offence.

According to Donaukurier, “the dentist and his staff are facing massive hostility, especially on social media”. For this reason, the newspaper did not state the dentist’s name in its article.

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