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Germany’s rectors and students demand full vaccination

Image: Oxford University

University attendants say face-to-face teaching must not go ahead without protection

Germany’s rectors and students have called on all university attendants to get vaccinated against Covid-19 to enable in-person teaching in the autumn semester.

The goal of universities is to enable face-to-face teaching this winter, as far as the state of the pandemic will allow, said Peter-André Alt, president of the German Rectors’ Conference HRK. The infection rate remains the central decision-making factor, he said, with universities preparing for a range of scenarios.

One possibility will be that exercises and seminars will be conducted in person, with the use of masks and social distancing measures. But larger lectures are more likely to be conducted digitally, with some “hybrid formats”, where students may choose whether to attend in person or remotely.

“Given the complex requirements here, hybrid formats will not be able to be the rule,” Alt said. In the event of a worsening of the pandemic situation, a nationwide return to purely digital formats will be necessary, he said.

Alt also urged staff and students to get the full Covid-19 vaccination before the start of term. He joined the German Student Union DSW in calling on students to take advantage of existing vaccination offers in order to enable more face-to-face events at universities.  

“The most important weapon against the pandemic is and remains vaccination,” said Alt. “I therefore ask all students and employees of universities to take up vaccination offers at their home or study locations so we can once again turn universities into places of learning and discussion.”

On 1 July Helge Braun, head of the chancellor’s office, announced that Germany would offer “easily accessible” vaccinations to students. However, vaccination appointments, which are being made through general practices, remain scarce in some areas in Germany.