Austria's mandatory vaccination in home stretch: What obligation will entail

Austria's mandatory vaccination in home stretch: What obligation will entail
Credit: Belga

On Sunday, the Austrian government presented more details on the vaccination mandate that was announced in November last year, including from what age it will be imposed and what the penalty will be for breaking the law.

On 1 February, Austria will become the first country in Europe to make vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory for the entire adult population - Ecuador made it compulsory for anyone aged over five in December - with the government stressing that the means to freedom is compulsory vaccination.

"Protecting ourselves is the responsibility of every individual. Protecting ourselves as a community and the health system is the responsibility of politics. That is why compulsory vaccination will come into force in February," the country's Chancellor Karl Nehammer stated on Twitter.

An entry phase will be in place until 16 March, "serving as a time period to get vaccinated - only then will controls be carried out and, if necessary, penalties imposed," he added.

Around 72% of Austria’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures. The country has entered the fifth wave and is currently reporting around 14,000 new Covid-19 cases on a daily basis.

The government first announced the vaccine mandate in November under Chancellor at the time, Alexander Schallenberg. “Despite months of persuasion, we have not managed to get enough people vaccinated," he said, adding that "the only way out of this vicious circle is to increase the vaccination rate in the long term.”

Outline of draft law

The law will apply from the start of February 2022 and will apply to all people aged over 18, excluding pregnant women, people who are exempt for medical reasons, and those recovering from the virus for six months, according to reports from the Austrian daily Kurier. 

Penalties will range from €600 (summary proceedings) to €3,600 (ordinary proceedings), however, no fines will be given until 14 March.

Starting the next day, area-wide checks will begin, and people will be fined for disobeying the law. People will not be sent to prison for violating the mandate.

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In the final phase, reminders will be sent to unvaccinated persons, and they will receive maximal penalties for non-compliance with vaccination deadlines.

Recognising fears

Nehammer, who himself just exited his quarantine after testing positive, stressed the importance of vaccination in light of his personal experiences.

"I can say with conviction: vaccination benefits and protects. The vaccination gave me a good feeling of not having to go to the hospital, not having to go to intensive care," he said.

The Chancellor stressed that he understands that people are afraid of the vaccine and that those fears are taken seriously. "Our offer is: let's seek conversation. And if there is mistrust of the policy - you can't blame anyone for that - then talk to your doctor."

On Monday, the country's parliamentary health committee will meet to discuss the draft law that was made on Sunday. Later in the week, the National Council (parliament) is to set to approve compulsory vaccination.

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