Vienna makes Covid-19 vaccines compulsory for all new health and social workers

The obligation for workers in particular professions to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be expanded in Vienna, with newly hired health and social workers now requiring the jab.

Vienna makes Covid-19 vaccines compulsory for all new health and social workers
A health worker in Vienna holds a syringe of the Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Vienna health boss Peter Hacker announced on Wednesday that the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination rules would be expanded in the city-state. 

In addition to workers in the healthcare profession – for whom vaccination is already required – those working in social care will also need to be vaccinated. 

Vaccinations are only required for new hires – i.e. not for those who were already working in the job when the vaccines were rolled out. 

In addition to healthcare workers, all facilities for homeless people along with retirement and nursing homes will need to ensure new workers are vaccinated. 

“The same now applies to the religious hospitals. The social institutions in Vienna will follow in the next few days,” Hacker told Vienna Heute. 

Everyone within the industry must be vaccinated, i.e. not just those who have direct contact with patients. Therefore, administrative staff also need to get the jab. 

Hacker said the compulsory vaccination rules were necessary in the health and social sectors as “these are the facilities at the most risk in the event of a pandemic”. 

Hacker indicated that the spread of the Delta variant had forced the government’s hand. 

Currently, the vaccination rates in the health and social care professions are between 80 and 90 percent. 

Hacker also said a further expansion of compulsory vaccination could be expanded to other professions such as hospitality and gastronomy, however nothing was being planned at this stage. 

History of compulsory vaccination for certain professions in Vienna

While the Covid-19 vaccine has just been rolled out, an obligation to be vaccinated is nothing new in Vienna. 

Since 2017, Vienna Health Association staff have been required to be vaccinated for certain infectious diseases, including diphtheria, measles, tetanus, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B.

Covid-19 was placed on the list on May 27th. 

Hacker said he hoped that 80 percent of the Vienna population would be vaccinated by the end of September, 2021. 

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

The much-debated policy sparked controversy since before it was approved in February, meaning that May could be a definitive month in the country.

EXPLAINED: How Austria's compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

Austria’s Federal Government has a ticking time bomb on its hands: an ordinance that suspended its vaccine mandate law is set to expire by the end of May, which means that the controversial mandatory vaccination would be again in place as early as June 1st.

In order to keep that from happening, Austria’s Health Ministry needs to extend the current regulation or create a new one.

If it doesn’t, the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination law would automatically be back in June.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Since, by June, the vaccine mandate stated that non-vaccinated would start getting fines, the resumption of the law would mean that, from next month, those who are not vaccinated could be fined in routine checks, such as traffic checks.

The ins and outs of the vaccine mandate

The law was first introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. The first stage of it was purely “informational”, and Austrian residents received letters explaining about vaccines and about the regulation.

A second stage, when people could have been fined if they were not vaccinated, was set to start in mid-March. Before a single person was fined, though, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.

The law was suspended for a variety of reasons, primarily due to the relatively high vaccination coverage the country had already received, along with the lower virulence of the Omicron variant. 

READ ALSO: Austria to scrap mandatory Covid vaccinations

To create a new regulation or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await the report of the vaccination commission, which should be ready in May, according to the Ministry.

The coronavirus commission will assess whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful from a medical and legal point of view. A previous report said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. However, according to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.