"We have the vaccines, the life-saving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere," von der Leyen pointed out.
On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the European Union (EU) should start a discussion on whether mandatory vaccinations are needed in the fight against the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, especially since a third of the EU population had not yet taken the jab.
Acknowledging that such a decision was "pure member state competence," she noted that around 150 million people in the EU had not taken the jab.
"I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now -- how we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the EU. We have the vaccines, the life-saving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere," she pointed out.
Von der Leyen also said that the EU's main COVID-19 vaccine provider, BioNTech/Pfizer, would have shots available for children in the bloc in two weeks. The Commission president said there was not enough information on the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, which the World Health Organization said poses a high risk.
"We do not know all about this variant but know enough to be concerned. We know from our experience with the Delta variant that it is a race against time. Till we know more, in two to three weeks, we need to take action. Our best scientists are working day and night. What science tells us already is that full vaccination and boosters give protection against the virus."
Meanwhile, Ireland’ Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed that scientists have detected the country’s first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant. The Dublin-based National Virus Reference Laboratory had carried out tests on a number of samples over the weekend and one of the eight samples that underwent genome sequencing was confirmed having the Omicron variant.
The report said scientists are not aware of any additional cases associated with the confirmed case, and there is no evidence of community transmission of the variant so far. The Irish government last Friday declared seven southern African countries as high-risk countries, advising against all non-essential travel to and from these countries by tightening the issuance of visas.
The seven countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The government also ruled that Irish citizens returning home from these countries shall undergo strict home quarantine with two PCR tests during quarantine.