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Uproar in Austria after local mayors and celebs grab ‘leftover’ vaccine doses

News that local mayors and even celebrities in Austria have received the Covid-19 vaccine after getting hold of "leftover" doses has caused uproar and provoked the wrath of the Austrian chancellor.

Uproar in Austria after local mayors and celebs grab 'leftover' vaccine doses
Health workers and vulnerable people - not celebrities - are set to be vaccinated first in Austria. Photo: Hans PUNZ / POOL / AFP

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he is “very angry” after it emerged some regional politicians in Austria were immunised with “leftover” coronavirus vaccines, even though they were not part of a high risk group. 

“If vaccines are left over, it's important to vaccinate them quickly. But they have to be used on the elderly, not on politicians, their wives or local celebrities,” Kurz told Kronen Zeitung.
 
His anger was directed at reports mayors and community leaders in the districts of Feldkirch, Rankwel, Bregenzerwald and Montafon “skipped the queue” for the vaccination along with local celebrities in Bregenz, Die Presse reports. 

Earlier reports claimed the politicians took “leftover” doses after people in the care homes had already been vaccinated.  The paper also claimed the Feldkirch Mayor Wolfgang Matt apologised in a broadcast message after he decided to be vaccinated before he was due to be.  

Salzburg governor Wilfried Haslauer, from Austrian People's Party, defended the vaccination of mayors in the city, despite the criticism by Chancellor Kurz and Health Minister Anschober.

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

Haslauer stated in a letter that the vaccination was justified in the case of mayors who, as part of their duties, are in regular contact with people in senior citizens' homes.

There is no rule to stop mayors from taking leftover vaccine doses in the nursing homes, unless they pay money to do so as this could constitute bribery.

Serious cases of corruption can be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years. However the value of a corona vaccination is “new legal territory”, Der Standard points out.

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

Phase one will see staff and residents of nursing homes followed by people aged over 80, followed by health workers and people in other vulnerable categories as part of phase two. 

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

 

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

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

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.

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