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COVID-19 VACCINES

First Austrian state to start Covid booster shots from Monday

Lower Austria will roll out Covid booster shots from Monday, August 30th, targeting people who are in high-risk categories.

Booster shots will soon be available in Lower Austria. Photo by Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) on Unsplash
Booster shots will soon be available in Lower Austria. Photo by Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) on Unsplash

Due to the rise in infections and people in hospital with Covid-19, Lower Austria will begin giving booster shots to high-risk and elderly patients in nursing homes and clinics from next week, broadcaster ORF reports.

People in very high-risk groups will receive their shots first, with people aged 65 and over will be able to get their third shot from mid-September. 

The shots will be administered at the more than 400 medical practices in the state.

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn

Deputy Governor Stephan Pernkopf said 94 percent of all patients currently being treated in hospitals for Covid-19 had not been vaccinated. 

When will Covid booster shots be available in the rest of the country? 

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. 

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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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