What do we know about Austria’s vaccine sceptics?

Women in Austria are more likely to be sceptical of the Covid vaccine than men, while there are clear geographical differences in attitudes to the jab.

What do we know about Austria’s vaccine sceptics?
A coronavirus protest in Austria. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

After a slow initial rollout due to a lack of supply, Austria’s vaccination campaign has hit a new hurdle – vaccine scepticism. 

Experts believe more than 80 to 85 percent of people need to be vaccinated in order to reach ‘herd immunity’, which would hamper community spread and protect those who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical reasons. 

READ MORE: Thousands turn out for Vienna anti-lockdown protest

However, vaccine scepticism has brought the chances of reaching this figure into doubt. 

In total, just 74 percent of Austrians have indicated they are willing to be vaccinated, a Gallup poll conducted in late July found. 

This figure includes those who have already had one or both vaccines, along with those who have not yet been vaccinated but intend to do so. 

Of the 26 percent who have indicated they are unwilling, 15 percent have said they will definitely not get the vaccine, while nine percent have indicated they will probably not get it. 

‘Education, not obligation’: How Austria plans to tackle vaccine sceptics

This figure is reduced slightly from the corresponding figure in November 2020, where around 30 percent of people indicated they were sceptical of the vaccine and would not get it. 

Who is unwilling to be vaccinated? 

There is a regional variance when it comes to being sceptical of the vaccine in Austria. 

In the states of Salzburg and Upper Austria, the percentage of vaccine sceptics is around one third of the population. 

There is also variance when it comes to gender in Austria, with more women than men being sceptical of the vaccine. 

A study from the Austria Corona Panel Project at the University of Vienna released in early August also found that 15 percent of Austrians refused to get the vaccine. 

READ MORE: Vienna coronavirus protesters ‘tried to storm and occupy Austrian Parliament’

In the study, 23 percent of women indicated they were sceptical, compared with only 18 percent of men. 

Katharina T. Paul, one of the scientists who completed the survey, said the reason for this was a greater degree of concern – primarily due to women being a target for misinformation. 

Paul said false information had circulated surrounding the impact of the vaccine on fertility, while women tend to be impacted more often by actual side effects of the vaccine such as thrombosis. 

The authors also said that women were more likely to be sceptical of the vaccine as they tended to make decisions regarding whether their children would be vaccinated. 

“Being confronted with this decision has something to do with having a critical attitude to the vaccination.”

The authors however said that despite the higher proportion of scepticism among women, they were more likely to change their mind on vaccines than men when presented facts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. 

Currently, around 54 percent of people are fully vaccinated in Austria – two percent higher than the European Union average. A further six percent of people have had one dose of the vaccine. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.