€500 bonus: How Austria wants to incentivise Covid vaccination

Just over a month before Covid vaccines will be made mandatory, the Austrian government wants to incentivise getting the jab, including a proposal for €500 bonuses.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer  (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer is in favour of financial incentives to vaccinate. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

From February 2022, everyone in Austria will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 via a nationwide mandate. 

While Covid vaccinations will become mandatory – with high fines forecast for those who don’t get the jab – bonuses of up to 500 euros could be on the table to encourage people to get the jab beforehand. 

‘Impfpflicht’: How will Austria’s mandatory vaccination law work in practice?

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he was open to vaccination bonuses before the mandatory vaccination scheme comes into effect in 2022. 

“Everything that helps us to get more people to vaccinate before the vaccination is actually mandated… sends a positive signal for our society,” Nehammer said. 

€500 bonus on the table?

One plan is to pay €500 bonuses for getting the jab. 

Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) said anyone who gets the jab from now until February 1st should receive a €500 voucher. 

SPÖ boss Pamela Rendi-Wagner previously proposed a plan whereby vouchers would be made available to anyone who encouraged someone to be vaccinated, i.e. not the person themselves but others who played a role in convincing them to do so. 

Nehammer however indicated he was reluctant to endorse any plan which did not reward those who had already got the jab. 

“But one thing is also clear: it can then not only affect those who are newly vaccinated, but of course also applies to everyone who was willing to be vaccinated.”

A statement from the Ministry of Health released on Wednesday did not confirm or deny the plan, but said all options remained on the table. 

“In order to be able to increase the vaccination rate even further, it is important to focus on persuasion and education. Of course, there should be no prohibitions on thinking and various possible solutions should continue to be discussed,” the Ministry said. 

From a political perspective, only the Austrian Freedom Party and the Neos indicated they would be against such a plan. 

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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.