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Is Austria’s vaccination strategy failing foreigners?

This week, Austria crossed the 500,000 vaccination mark - but experts believe the vaccination strategy is neglecting the country's sizeable foreign population.

Is Austria’s vaccination strategy failing foreigners?

On Monday, February 22nd, Austria crossed the 500,000 mark in vaccine doses. In total, just over four percent of the population has received at least one vaccination dose – with 2.63 percent receiving both doses.

From not providing information in languages other than German to failing to tackle a slew of conspiracy theories and incorrect information on social media, Austrian authorities’ vaccination strategy is failing the country’s sizeable foreign population. 

Judith Kohlenberger from the Institute for Social Policy at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration told Wien Heute the country has adopted a “white, classically Austrian vaccination campaign”. 

Kohlenberger points out that the Österreich impft (Austria vaccinates) campaign features nobody obviously of a migrant background – unlike of course the vast majority of hospitals and medical centres where people who have contracted coronavirus are being cared for. 

“We just have to go to any hospital in Vienna, where the majority of nurses have a migration background. That would be good (to gather) testimonials to say, yes, we will be vaccinated,” she said. 

READ: Will Austria really be able to vaccinate one million people by April? 

Mariam Elhigazi, psychologist and health guide at Volkshilfe Vienna, told ORF that it was clear the government’s vaccination campaign was targeted at “rich, old people” rather than foreigners. 

“There is really very good information from the government about the measures I can take to protect myself. But there isn’t that much about vaccination,” she said. 

“And if there’s anything, it’s for rich people, old people – but I can’t find myself (in the campaign),” she said. 

Hard to find information in languages other than German 

When the Red Cross’ campaign was launched, it did not have information in languages other than German – although a Red Cross spokesman told ORF on Monday that this had now changed

“The latest information from the ‘Austria vaccinated’ initiative has already been translated into 14 languages. Over the past few weeks they have been placed in various foreign-language media,” said Red Cross spokesman Gerald Czech

According to the spokesman, the campaign has “already been translated into 14 languages” including Arabic, Turkish and Hungarian, however the website does not currently have information in any language other than German. 

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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.