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VACCINE

‘Every adult vaccinated in 100 days’: Can Austria achieve its Covid jab target?

Last week Chancellor Sebastian Kurz promised every adult in Austria who wants to be vaccinated against the coronavirus will be given the opportunity in the next 100 days. Will Austria meet this ambitious target?

Woman being vaccinated
Fred TANNEAU / AFP

Kurz also said sport, restaurants and hotels will be able to open again in May, after over 65s are vaccinated. In May all over 50-year-olds should be jabbed, and in June vaccination is to be opened to all age groups.

Seven million doses due by end of July

Austria is due to receive seven million doses in the second quarter of the year (April to July) as opposed to two million in the first quarter (January to March).

According to the Austrian Der Standard newspaper, Chancellor Kurz believes only two thirds of Austrians aged over 16 (7.5 million people), will register to receive a vaccine, leaving him with the target of vaccinating five million people before the end of July.  

 

Die Impfung ist unser Ausweg aus der Pandemie & mit ihr kommen wir der Normalität Schritt für Schritt näher!

Posted by Sebastian Kurz on Thursday, April 8, 2021

So far 1.3 million people have been vaccinated, leaving an estimated 3.7 million people who want to be vaccinated, but have not yet received a jab. 

Even once the 800,000 people who have only had their first dose are given a second, this still leaves more than six million doses to vaccinate 3.7 million people. In addition, 670,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine should be delivered to Austria, which only requires one dose of vaccine for full immunity. 

Assuming delivery targets are met, Austria looks set to achieve its target of vaccinating five million people by the summer. 

So is Austria doing well compared to the rest of Europe? 

For now Austria is performing well when compared to other European states, probably because it has not stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine for certain age groups. 

According to the Statista website, it is in 9th place in Europe with 19.5 percent of its population having been given at least one dose, just behind Denmark which is at 20 percent. 

Austria could fall behind in the coming months

However, it is predicted Austria will slip much further down the league table in the coming months. The reason is that in the summer of 2020 Austria, along with some other countries, did not buy its full allocation of Johnson and Johnson and Biontech doses from the EU according to population.

Other nations were given the chance to buy the extra doses and cleverly ended up with extra. According to Der Standard newspaper, Austria was offered around four million Johnson and Johnson doses for its nine million inhabitants, but will now get around 2.5 million doses. 

As a result, in the second quarter Austria will probably only receive 670,000 doses instead of the 1.06 million it would have been offered, missing out on completely immunising 336,000 people by the beginning of July.

According to calculations by the agency Bloomberg made at the beginning of the month, as Denmark ordered more vaccines than Austria, by the end of June it will have vaccinated around 80 percent of its population as opposed to Austria’s estimated 51 percent. 

Will the EU let Austria make up extra doses? 

The EU has already met to distribute an additional 10 million extra doses of Biontech Pfizer vaccine to countries who have been most affected by the delivery problems by AstraZeneca.

This means Austria will receive an extra 198,815 doses to make up its shortfall. Chancellor Kurz had hoped for up to 400,000 extra doses, but was unsuccessful in his bid for more vaccines, the Kurier newspaper reports. 

What about Sputnik? 

As the Local reported at the end of March,  Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz started talks in February over the delivery of 300,000 doses of Sputnik in April, 500,000 in May and 200,000 in early June 2021.

Foreign media is reporting that the deal to import the vaccine has already been done. This would go some way to making up Austria’s shortfall. 

READ MORE: Austria set to order one million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid Vaccine

The vaccine is already being used in Hungary, although it has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

According to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper Chancellor Kurz has still not confirmed whether Austria will wait for the approval of the EMA before administering the Sputnik vaccine, or will press ahead before approval is given.

In neighbouring Slovakia the government has ordered two million doses of Sputnik, and 200,000 doses have already been delivered.

However, the country’s SUKL health authority  was unable to approve the use of the vaccine because it did not have enough information to be able to judge the benefits and risks of the Russian vaccine.

The authority said specific data from the manufacturer on production and safety was missing, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. 

More delivery problems with AstraZeneca

Austria’s target of giving vaccinations to all willing citizens in 100 days is of course reliant on all manufacturers meeting their commitments to deliver the required quantities. AstraZeneca has already missed a delivery in April, the Kurier newspaper reports.

It was due to deliver 5,090 doses in the week ending 11th April. It will now deliver almost half this amount (2,640 doses) in the week ending 18th April.   

In the first quarter of the year, AstraZeneca only delivered half of its planned order of 1.2 million doses. By contrast Moderna met its target of 196,800 doses, and Biontech/Pfizer delivered  more doses than expected in the first quarter of the year, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

Did Austria meet its vaccination target for the first quarter?

The previous target, which health minister Rudolf Anschober promised of giving two million vaccinations by Easter, was only narrowly missed.

Following the Easter break 1,872.531 vaccines had been administered according to Austria’s coronavirus dashboard.

This is not bad, when you consider two million doses were delivered to Austria in this period. 

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

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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