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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria extends validity of vaccines for Covid-19 green pass

In Austria, the Covid-19 vaccine has a validity period. What does this mean for the Green Pass and for people that were vaccinated earlier in the year?

Austria extends validity of vaccines for Covid-19 green pass
Austria's Green Pass rules are changing in August. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

When the Covid-19 vaccination roll out started in Austria at the end of 2020, the vaccines had a validity period of 270 days (nine months). 

This means that people who were fully vaccinated by the end of January 2021 would see the Green Pass (Austria’s Covid-19 digital certificate) turn red next month.

However, when the 8th amendment to the 2nd Covid-19 opening regulation came into force on September 15, the validity of the full immunisation was extended to 360 days and the Green Pass was updated.

This also applies to people who have recovered from Covid-19 and received one dose of the vaccine.

The only exception is the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which still has a validity period of 270 days.

A report by the Wiener Zeitung states the vaccinations have a validity period because they have not yet been approved for a third dose, with the Ministry of Health saying what happens in the future will depend on “how the matter develops”.

The Covid-19 vaccine and immunity

Third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are already taking place in an “off-label” application, but a full-scale roll-out for the general population is yet to be approved.

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

Some medical experts are calling for a nationwide third shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, whereas others are hesitant until there is more data to prove effectiveness.

Markus Zeitlinger, head of the University Clinic for Clinical Pharmacology at the Medical University of Vienna, told the Wiener Zeitung he believes the third dose should be administered after nine months, especially for the elderly.

Although Zeitlinger said he would like to see more data before a third shot is recommended for everyone.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to announce an approval for the third dose of mRNA Covid-19 vaccinations in the coming weeks.

Third doses can already be booked in all federal states in Austria, at least for high-risk patients.

In Tyrol, for instance, patients in high-risk categories can now register for a third dose with their doctor. 

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn

What is the Green Pass used for?

Currently, the Green Pass allows people access to public spaces like bars, restaurants, cafes and events where the 3-G rule (recovered, vaccinated or negative antigen/PCR test) applies.

But it could change to 2-G (recovered or vaccinated) for nightclubs and late night catering if the number of people in intensive care with Covid-19 continues to rise. This would mean people with a negative test would not be allowed to enter.

A full overview of the current national Covid-19 rules can be found here.

In Vienna, the 2-G rule will already be brought in from October 1st for late night catering venues and gatherings of more than 500 people (indoor and outdoor). 

For employees of late night venues in Vienna, there will be a 2.5-G rule – vaccinated, recovered or a negative PCR test.

READ MORE: Vienna to further tighten Covid measures from October

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Austria's national vaccination board changed the recommendations for when to get the fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Over this weekend, Austria’s national vaccination board (NIG) released an updated recommendation on Covid-19 immunisation, changing its previous guidance for the fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccination slightly.

According to the NIG, booster vaccinations can be given to persons aged 12 years and older and are recommended for anyone who wants to protect themselves.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria

In particular, the 4th vaccination is advised for persons over 60 years of age, persons at risk of severe disease progression (including pregnant women) and persons with an increased risk of exposure (healthcare workers, people in long-term nursing or care facilities, etc.).

The recommended interval between the third and fourth doses is from six months for people between 12 and 59 years old, NIG said. For those over 60 or risk patients, that interval is from 4 months.

What has changed then?

The main difference is the recommendation for those who have had a Covid-19 infection after their third shot.

“An infection in vaccinated persons usually leads to a booster effect (hybrid immunity), which can affect the optimal timing of the next vaccination.”, NIG said.

However, the board specified that infection could only be “counted” after it was confirmed with a PCR test.

READ ALSO: Austria announces new Covid-19 vaccination campaign

So, if you have had a PCR-confirmed infection after your second or third shot and it was an asymptomatic case, you may follow the regular vaccination scheme. However, you can also postpone your vaccination for up to six months.

If you had a symptomatic case, you may postpone your next dose for up to six months only if you are younger than 60 and not of a risk group.

NIG said: “Persons vaccinated three times who have also had a proven omicron infection show a good booster response and cross-immunity”.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

It added: In such cases, especially in persons under 60 years of age, the 4th vaccination within a period of up to 6 months does not achieve any further improvement in immune protection and thus, the 4th vaccination can be postponed accordingly.

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