The first vaccinations were administered in Austria on December 27th, with an 84-year-old woman in Vienna being the first to get vaccinated.
The mass vaccinations will then come in three waves from January.
Here’s the answer to some frequently asked questions about the coronavirus vaccination program in Austria.
How will the vaccinations be carried out?
As reported by The Local Austria in November, Austria will adopt a three-phase vaccination plan.
More information about this plan – and who gets access to the vaccine in each phase – is available here.
Who is in the ‘risk group’?
Prior to the rollout of the vaccine, Austria passed the ‘Risk Group Ordinance’ which laid out who was deemed to be at a high-risk from coronavirus and could thereby be given priority access to the vaccine.
Those in the risk group are defined as people over 65, along with people with advanced chronic lung diseases, chronic heart diseases resulting in organ damage and certain cancer patients.
Pursuant to the rollout, those over 65 will be vaccinated in the first phase – with those in the other risk groups vaccinated in the second phase.
More information about people in risk groups is available here.
Which vaccines are available?
The Biontech/Pfizer vaccine has already received approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), while Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the Moderna vaccine would be approved “in the first half of January 2021. January 6th would be a good date”.
A third vaccine – that developed by Astra Zeneca and Oxford University – is expected to be approved in February.
Where will vaccinations be carried out?
In the early stages, the vaccinations will be carried out in two locations: nursing homes and vaccination centres.
Vaccinations are set to kick off in nursing homes across the country on January 12th, with Anschober saying it is imperative that the government removes the hurdles to allow people to access vaccinations.
For those who don’t live in retirement homes, vaccination will take place through large vaccination centres set up across the country.
Besides the convenience of vaccination centres, they are necessary considering that the vaccine doses must be stored at incredibly cold temperatures.
Kurier reports that vaccinations will take place in doctor's offices from February, provided the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved at this point.
The reason is that the AstraZeneca vaccine does not need to be stored in especially cold freezers – and therefore does not need to be administered in vaccination centres.
How many vaccines are available for Austria – and how many people will be vaccinated?
By the end of 2020, just over 60,000 doses of vaccine will have been delivered to Austria.
Thomas Bosch, head of the pharmaceutical trade of the Vienna Kwizda Group, told Der Standard “Every additional week in January the same number is added.”
At the end of January, 150,000 people will have been vaccinated. That number increases to 3.5 million by the end of March and potentially ten million by the end of June.
With each person requiring two doses, this will mean five million people can be vaccinated by the mid-point of 2021.
Der Standard reports that all of Austria’s 8.7 million residents can be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Can I somehow pay more to be vaccinated earlier?
No. With the vaccination scheme coordinated by the EU, risk groups – and only risk groups – will have access to the vaccination first.
Der Standard reports that even residents of Puurs – the town where Europe’s Pfizer vaccines are being produced – will not have early access to vaccines.
Experts advise everyone not to buy vaccines off the black market.
Will people be forced to be vaccinated?
No. Austria has said repeatedly that vaccinations will not be compulsory.
Do those who have been vaccinated get any special rights?
The Austrian Ministry of Health has been emphatic in saying that those who are vaccinated will not get any special rights or privileges.
Anschober repeated on Tuesday, December 29th that those who have been vaccinated will not be allowed to leave lockdown early, for example.
There is however the possibility that the private sector may put in place restrictions – for instance restaurants only serving vaccinated people as has been flagged in Germany – along with passengers on long distance flights.
The legal situation in this regard is however unclear.
More information about Austria’s coronavirus vaccination program is available here.