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COVID-19 VACCINES

How foreign residents in Austria are struggling to get a Covid-19 immunity pass

The Local Austria reached out to readers to ask about getting the green pass, with several telling us of "burdensome" difficulties and hurdles they encountered when trying to receive it.

How foreign residents in Austria are struggling to get a Covid-19 immunity pass
Have you had problems getting Austria's Covid immunity pass? Photo: TOM LITTLE / AFP

The central component of the reopening of Austria’s economy – along with international travel – over the past few months has been the Covid-19 immunity pass. 

Nicknamed the ‘green pass’, the card – which shows immunity to the virus from recovery or vaccination, or that a person doesn’t have the virus through a negative test – allows people to visit hairdressers, restaurants, events and also to travel internationally. 

However, several readers report major hurdles with the scheme which have prevented them from getting the green pass entirely. 

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?

In late June, The Local Austria released a callout to readers to ask about their experiences getting the card. 

Four out of seven told us they had issues obtaining it, with the remainder informing us that the experience was largely positive without any significant issues. 

E-card

One major issue has been the need for an e-card in order to get the pass. 

Almost all medical procedures, whether administrative or therapeutic, require an e-card in Austria. 

As The Local has reported previously, people need either an e-card or a social security number in order to get the vaccine in Austria. 

Reader question: Do I need my e-card to get vaccinated in Austria?

While almost everyone in Austria will have an e-card regardless of insurance status, there are some who do not.  

This includes people who work for international organisations such as the UN and are privately insured through their work, along with some postgraduate students. 

Penny, from Australia, told us she was unable to get the green pass as she “does not have an e-card or Austrian social security number as I have private health insurance with an international organisation”

Olivier Adam, from France, said he was denied proof of vaccination due to not having an e-card. 

“With private insurance I was told gesundheit.gv.at cannot issue a QR code. Yesterday I waited one hour in line at VC to get my proof of vaccination to be told only people with the E-card will be able to get the electronic pass” he said. 

What is Austria’s e-card? Everything you need to know

Foreign phone number

In order to get the green pass, you’ll need a Handysignature – a special code sent to your phone. 

The problem with this is that it is only available to Austrian numbers. 

With many foreigners choosing to keep their numbers despite living in Austria, this has made it impossible to get a central requirement of the pass. 

Sean McIntyre told The Local that despite having an Austrian number, he was unable to get past the Handysignature requirement – and that other options had so far been fruitless. 

“I’m currently stuck on the step to get the Handysignature which, to my understanding, is a requirement for the Greencard,” he said. 

“I’ve gone to the post office for an identity check, and am now waiting for a letter in the mail to complete the authentication. 

“The post office website says it should “arrive in a few days” but now it’s been two weeks. I’m not sure how to follow-up or whom to ask for an update, so I must wait!”

Paul agreed. 

“I cant get my (handy) signature due to having a foreign phone number. I don’t know about alternative ways of getting the certificate”

Ben Bruce, from the United States, told The Local getting the Handysignature was “a burdensome requirement, especially for the elderly and foreigners”. 

“There is no easy way to pick it up in person. The process has not been explained well at all by government.”

As of early July, the state government in Vienna indicated the green pass could be obtained without a Handysignature by using its Homecare app, which does not require an Austrian number. 

With Vienna’s high proportion of foreigners, this is likely to be good news for many who were unable to get the app. 

READ MORE: How to get Austria’s green pass without a ‘Handysignature’ in Vienna

‘Everything was fine’

While a slight majority told us they experienced issues getting the pass, others indicated they were able to get the pass without any problems. 

Vlad, originally from Russia, told us the process worked as advertised. 

“Everything was fine,” he said. “I got an SMS from Stadt Wien and easily downloaded the PDF file”. 

Two others said the experience was largely positive. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

What to know about Austria’s new advice on Covid vaccines

As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, each country developed its own vaccination recommendation, which often changed. Here is the new advice from the Austrian vaccination panel.

What to know about Austria's new advice on Covid vaccines

The Austrian National Vaccination Panel has updated its recommendations on Covid vaccination on several points, the Ministry of Health announced.

“Special attention continues to be paid to the completion of the basic immunisation, which is recommended for all persons five years of age and older, and to the booster vaccination,” according to the Ministry of Health.

The booster shot is generally available to all persons 12 years of age and older and is free of charge, but it is especially recommended for persons 60 years of age and older and those at risk.

READ ALSO: Masks against Covid and flu: What’s ahead for Austria this winter

In Austria, the basic immunisation against Covid-19 consists of three vaccine doses. A fourth dose, also known as a booster shot, is also recommended.

What is new in the recommendation?

Austria is adding a new coronavirus vaccine, from Sanofi (VidPrevtyn Beta), to the list of offers against the virus. The new vaccine is protein-based and has already been approved by the European authorities. 

In Austria, the Sanofi vaccine can be used from the third vaccination onwards on people older than 18. The offer will be available at the vaccination sites in the coming week at the earliest, according to the Ministry. 

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

Another change is that the variant Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4-5 from BioNTech/Pfizer will also be used for the third vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years. 

This vaccine is specially adapted to the virus variants Omicron BA.4 and 5. It is now available for children in a special application shot that should be in vaccination sites starting next week at the earliest. 

READ ALSO: What to expect from the ski season in Austria this winter

Also included in the recommendations is a clarification specifically on an additional booster vaccination (fifth vaccination). 

People at risk from the age of 18, and those from the age of 60 can receive the additional booster vaccination four months after the fourth vaccination. According to the vaccination panel, no fifth vaccination is necessary for healthy people under 60.

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