‘Education, not obligation’: How Austria plans to tackle vaccine sceptics

Austria has promised the coronavirus vaccination will not be compulsory, despite concern about a rising anti-vaccination movement in the country.

‘Education, not obligation’: How Austria plans to tackle vaccine sceptics
Photo: Daniel ROLAND / AFP

Austria’s first wave of coronavirus vaccinations is expected to take place just after Christmas. 

In order for vaccinations to be effective in preventing the spread of a virus, a large proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated. 

However Austrian health officials have promised that any coronavirus vaccine will not be made mandatory as a means to help the country reach ‘herd immunity’. 

READ: What kind of post-Christmas lockdown will Austria announce?

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober has promised vaccinations will not be compulsory, while saying a hotline will be set up so that citizens can put “very old-fashioned frequently asked questions and the answers on the homepage of the Ministry of Health”.

Instead, Austrian officials hope to educate the population about how safe the vaccine really is to allay fears that it might be dangerous. 

Herwig Kollaritsch, a doctor who is the head of the Austrian Vaccination Committee, said at a press conference that the goal is to encourage people to make a rational decision rather than an emotional one. 

‘Vaccination is the only way out (of the pandemic)’

While Kollaritsch said that no vaccine was 100 percent safe, each of the coronavirus vaccines which are currently being brought to market showed high levels of safety. 

He also said the vaccinations were necessary despite these spread of the virus throughout the community as “we know that we have only infected 4.7 percent of the population, that is, over 95 percent are still susceptible to the virus”. 

Kollaritsch also warned that the current coronavirus measures – including masks, social distancing and periodic lockdowns would stay “for years” unless a vaccine is rolled out in Austria. 

“We will maintain this status for years if we do not want to risk huge numbers of infections, because the virus came to stay,” said the doctor.

“Vaccination is currently the only way to fight the pandemic,” he said. “In the current situation there are no other alternatives.”

‘Victims of their own success’

“Vaccinations are victims of their own success,” Kollaritsch said. As vaccines have eradicated many diseases, people have less experience with serious disease and think that vaccines may in fact not be necessary. 

Kollaritsch said it was necessary to be up front about the vaccine and how it works – as well as the potential for side effects. 

While trials have shown that the vaccine is safe, there have been some side effects, Kollaritsch says. 

The two side effects which have been recorded as part of the trials are headaches and fatigue which lasts for up to four days. 

Kollaritsch said that such side effects are normal with vaccinations and people should not be concerned – however they should be informed of the potential for side effects so that they can make a call if the benefits outweigh the negatives. 


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Austria makes quarantine announcement for monkeypox

The Ministry of Health has announced new quarantine guidelines for dealing with monkeypox in Austria.

Austria makes quarantine announcement for monkeypox

The Ministry of Health has published a set of guidelines for authorities after Austria reported its first case of the disease on Monday.

A three week quarantine now applies to contacts of confirmed cases, but only if they are showing symptoms of monkeypox, reports Der Standard.

The isolation period can be completed at home or at hospital, depending on the state of health of the patient.

Furthermore, contacts of a positive case will be treated as either Type I or Type II in a move similar to the management of Covid-19 contacts.

READ MORE: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Type I contacts are considered as high-risk and include those who have had direct contact with skin lesions of an infected person, such as sexual partners, but also close passengers on planes, buses or trains for a period of at least eight hours. 

High-risk contacts do not have to isolate straight away but must monitor their condition for 21 days through a daily phone call with the health authorities. If symptoms occur, then the person has to quarantine for three weeks and a PCR test has to be carried out.

Type II contacts are short social contacts, such as work colleagues (not in the same office), or fleeting contacts in gyms, saunas or bathrooms. These contacts must monitor their health for 21 days.

READ ALSO: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

A case of monkeypox is confirmed after a positive result from a PCR test and Austria currently only has one confirmed case of monkeypox in Vienna.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that positive cases of monkeypox are contagious for the entire duration of an infection, which can last from two to four weeks.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The disease displays symptoms in two phases.

The first stage involves a high temperature, muscles aches, back ache, chills, headache, swollen glands and exhaustion.

This is typically followed a few days later by a rash on the mouth, throat, face, hands and forearms before spreading to other parts of the body. The genital area can also be affected.

READ MORE: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

A patient is no longer contagious when the rash has disappeared.

To be considered a suspected case, a person must have been in contact with a probable or confirmed case of monkeypox, recently returned from West or Central Africa or been in contact with a potentially infected animal.

Additionally, a person must have developed a rash of unknown cause and at least two other symptoms (e.g. fever, chills) within 21 days after contact.