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COVID-19 VACCINES

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn

Austria is planning a third Covid booster shot “in due course”, with indications they will take place in autumn.

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn
Booster shots for Covid-19 look set to take place from autumn 2021. Photo by THOMAS LOHNES / AFP

The Austrian government is starting to prepare for autumn with plans for booster shots against Covid-19. 

The Ministry of Health has told the broadcaster ORF that the federal government will continue to be responsible for the distribution of vaccines, while the federal states will implement the campaigns.

Booster jabs should start to be given from mid-October, initially targeting high risk groups, who were first vaccinated in mid-January.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said the shots will start in nursing homes as soon as approval is given at a European level. 

Kurz and Mückstein issued a statement saying they expect “new scientific knowledge about the need for a third vaccination soon”. 

“The top priority is protecting the elderly and vulnerable groups. We therefore expect the EMA to be promptly informed about the need for a third vaccination against the coronavirus.

“In any case, we are prepared and have agreed with the state vaccination coordinators that we can start the third vaccination immediately after a possible recommendation.”

It is currently assumed that a third jab should take place around nine months after the second vaccination, unless you were vaccinated with a single dose from the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson or have recovered from a case of Covid-19, in which case the booster shot will be the second jab.

These plans are being developed by the Austrian states, who are in charge of administering the vaccines. 

“Based on the current study situation, it is not yet possible to conclusively assess whether a booster vaccination will really be necessary for everyone after nine months,” said the ministry. 

ORF reports that there may be differences in the plans for booster shots from state to state. 

The exact timing will be known when the European approval authority EMA makes its recommendations, however the Austrian government has indicated it will have enough supply to carry out booster shots regardless of who they will be administered to. 

Lower Austria was the first state to roll out Covid booster shots, doing so in late August. Carintha became the second just a few weeks later

Booster shots for people over 60 are already being administered in Israel, with the second doses of the vaccine carried out five months ago. 

Germany has also indicated it will administer booster shots for people in risk groups from September. 

Vaccinations started in August from January 2021. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria formally scraps mandatory Covid vaccination law

Just months after announcing mandatory nationwide Covid vaccinations under threats of financial penalties, Austria has unanimously decided to scrap the law.

Austria formally scraps mandatory Covid vaccination law

Austria’s National Council unanimously decided to repeal the vaccination obligation law and associated regulations, the Parliament said on Thursday. 

In making the announcement, the ÖVP and Greens coalition stated that the lifting is in no way intended to reduce the relevance of the vaccination’s contribution to managing the pandemic, particularly concerning lowering the impact of severe courses of the disease. 

They continue to incentivise people to get the vaccines, but now there is no legal obligation.

End of the road for controversial mandate

The controversial measure was announced late in 2021 and had been put into effect in February, with penalties for non-compliance to be introduced in March. 

The laws included a set of regulations allowing police to check people’s vaccinated status. Those that could not prove they were either vaccinated, or recently recovered from the disease, would have to pay a fine.

Before these penalties were introduced however, the law was suspended until August. 

At the time, the government said the suspension was due to the combined impact of the lower virulence of the Omicron variant and the impact of widespread vaccination coverage across the country. 

“The omicron variant changed the situation”, health minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said at the time. 

He added that the law was introduced in a different context and was supported by “a clear majority” at the time when hospitals were full and “intensive care units were on the limit”.

The minister said that the new variant has reduced the effectiveness of vaccination against infections and has caused less severe courses of the disease.

“Even people who are willing to vaccinate in principle are now more difficult to convince of the need for a third dose”.

Rauch said the obligation to vaccinate did not increase the take up of the Covid jab. Instead, it “opened deep trenches in Austrian society”, according to the minister.

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