UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

Are you a member of a risk group in Austria? Are you not? Here’s how you ensure access to the coronavirus vaccine.

UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

Under Austria’s three-phase vaccination scheme, people in risk groups for coronavirus are set to be given priority in vaccinations. 

But what exactly is a ‘risk group’ – and how do people in these groups ensure they get access to the vaccine? 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Austria’s three-phase vaccination scheme prioritises ‘risk patients’

Austrian health authorities revealed the details of the three-stage plan at a press conference in late November. 

At the end of December, federal authorities gave an overview of how the plan is likely to work – and who will be vaccinated first. 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Austria’s coronavirus vaccination plan

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. 

Who gets vaccinated first? 

Phase one, kicked off in January of 2021, targeted people over the age of 65, “especially those in retirement and old age homes”. 

Phase one will also see staff in nursing homes vaccinated. 

With one million doses of the vaccine likely to be available, this phase will see 500,000 people vaccinated – as each person needs to receive the vaccine twice. 

Each dose will need to be given at least 21 days apart

Phase two, which started in February 2021, will see health workers and people in other vulnerable categories vaccinated. 

Q&A: Everything you need to know about Austria’s coronavirus vaccination program 

Other people in so-called “systemically relevant” professions will also be vaccinated as part of this phase. 

Der Standard reports this includes police officers, employees in the food industry, transport companies and others, as well as teachers and employees of kindergartens and schools.

Starting in April, phase three will see the vaccine available to the general public. 

This will include those who are already sick with Covid-19. 

Information as to how to take part as a member of the general public – i.e. someone who is not in a risk group – will be provided by the government at a later date. 

Some states however have already started their vaccination drives, with Vienna opening its registration system to the general public. More information is available here. 

Ultra-cold freezers set up to store the coronavirus vaccine in Vienna. Photo: HELMUT FOHRINGER / APA / AFP

Who is considered at risk of coronavirus?

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. 

I am in a high-risk group. How do I make sure I get vaccinated? 

According to the Austrian government “all medical high-risk groups will immediately be invited to get a vaccination by their regular doctors or outpatient clinics”. 

Put simply, the first step you should take is to speak with your doctor and discuss your medical condition. 

According to official government advice issued on January 1st, 2021, people should be registered with the social security system as being members of a risk group. 

Those who have not registered their condition with the social security system should begin the process of doing so.

However, the government confirmed that individuals with confirmation of risk status from a private doctor will also classify as ‘high risk’ and qualify for priority vaccination. 

Please speak with your doctor as soon as possible about your condition and when vaccination will be available for you. 

I am not high risk. How can I get vaccinated? 

As at January 2021, vaccinations have not started for patients who are not in a high-risk category. 

Vienna, Lower Austria and Vorarlberg have opened up registration to the general public, with the first vaccinations expected to take place in the Spring. 

As at January 19th, around 500,000 people have registered. 

Please contact your state authorities for more information or click the following link

READ: When can I register for the coronavirus vaccine in my Austrian state? 

Do I need to fill out a form? 

Yes. Everyone who wants to get vaccinated in Austria will need to fill out a form. 

Here is a link to the form (in German) along with an English translation. 

Here is the form you need to get vaccinated in Austria

Why were nursing homes prioritised? 

Austria’s prioritisation of nursing home residents has meant that some people – including those with serious conditions placing them at a high risk – will need to wait longer to receive a vaccine. 

The Austrian government acknowledged this, saying that “at the beginning of January there were not enough vaccines available to vaccinate all people at the same time, (therefore) all residents in old people’s and nursing homes and their employees are vaccinated first.”

“This is where the risk of getting seriously ill from a COVID infection and possibly even dying is greatest. This decision is based on medical and technical considerations.”

More information about the ‘medical and technical’ considerations can be found at the following link (pdf in German). 

How can I find out more? 

For more detailed information on how the vaccinations work in Austria, please click the following link. 

For specific questions, you can call Austria’s vaccination hotline seven days a week, 24-hours a day on 0800/555 621. 

General information and FAQs are also available at the following link.

Note: As with all of our coronavirus-related guides, this is intended as advice only. It does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please speak with your doctor about your options. 

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

Austria this weekend confirmed its first case of monkeypox, in Vienna. Here is what you need to know about the disease.

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

A 35-year-old man was confirmed as the first case of monkeypox in Austria this Sunday, 22nd, according to Viennese medical authorities.

The man is isolated in a clinic in the Favoriten district and “is doing well under the circumstances”, health authorities said. On Sunday, the patient went to the clinic with a slight fever and isolated skin lesions.

This is the first case in Austria of a “multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries”, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

The monkeypox virus is well known but endemic to isolated regions in Africa. Experts are still unsure why the disease has been spreading outside of Africa in people with no connection to the affected areas.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox, Affenpocken in German, is a zoonotic virus (a virus spread from animals to humans) that most often occurs in areas of tropical rainforest in Central and West Africa. However, it is occasionally found in other regions, and cases have recently been discovered in Europe, North America, and Australia.

The name monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958, according to WHO. The first human case was identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

How is it transmitted?

Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

People can also be infected through contact with the lesions of the skin, blood, tissues, or excretions of infected animals (mainly rodents) and by handling the meat of sick animals.

The disease is not known to be sexually transmitted. Still, close contact between people during sex can make the transmission of the virus easier.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’, and should you take it?

Many of the cases presented are in men who have sexual relations with other men and health authorities have asked for extra care and are studying current cases.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. In addition, a rash similar to chickenpox typically develops, often starting on the face and spreading to other parts of the body, including the genitals.

Monkeypox typically has an incubation period of six to 16 days, but it can be as long as 21 days. Once lesions have scabbed over and fallen off, the person with the virus is no longer infectious.

READ ALSO: ‘Mysterious hepatitis’: Everything we know so far about the new cases in Austria

Monkeypox is usually self-limiting, and people recover in a few weeks, but it may be severe in some individuals, such as children, pregnant women, or persons with immune suppression due to other health conditions.

How can I protect myself and others?

There is no specific vaccine against this virus that would be widely available, but the common smallpox vaccine already offers high protection and is recommended for close contacts and health workers.

“Historically, vaccination against smallpox had been shown to be protective against monkeypox. While one vaccine (MVA-BN) and one specific treatment (tecovirimat) were approved for monkeypox, in 2019 and 2022 respectively, these countermeasures are not yet widely available.”, according to the World Health Organisation.

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

For now, there are no large vaccination campaigns for smallpox, and WHO is convening experts to discuss recommendations on vaccination.

“Steps for self-protection include avoiding skin to skin or face to face contact with anyone who has symptoms, practising safer sex, keeping hands clean with water and soap or alcohol-based hand rub, and maintaining respiratory etiquette”, according to the World Health Organisation.

If people develop a rash, accompanied by fever or a feeling of discomfort or illness, they should contact their health care provider and get tested for monkeypox, the organisation added.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?

If someone is suspected or confirmed as having monkeypox, they should isolate until the scabs have fallen off and abstain from sex, including oral sex.

During this period, patients can get supportive treatment to ease monkeypox symptoms.

Anyone caring for a person sick with monkeypox should use appropriate personal protective measures, including wearing a mask and cleaning objects and surfaces that have been touched.