How Austria’s rules for booster doses and vaccine passes are changing

February will bring changes to Austria's rules around Covid-19 vaccines, which come into effect on the first of the month.

A vial of the Covid vaccine seen up close
Two different sets of vaccine rule changes come into effect from February 1st. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP

Vaccine pass validity

From February 1st, proof of vaccination is only considered valid for six months (180 days) after the second vaccine dose, down from the current nine months (270 days). The same applies to people who have a combination of one vaccine dose and one proof of recovery, which is now only valid for six months.

After that, you need a booster dose to be considered fully vaccinated, and this is valid proof of full vaccination for nine months. Otherwise, if your second dose was more than six months ago, you won’t be considered to have 2G proof.

If you have recently had a confirmed infection of Covid-19, you may not be able to get the booster dose immediately but a recovery certificate from a doctor will give you 2G proof for 180 days, since the two ‘G’s apply if you are either fully vaccinated (geimpft) or recovered within the last 180 days (genesen).

If you have had proof of one recovery from infection plus two vaccine doses, this is equivalent to a booster dose and is valid for 270 days.

People under 18 are exempt from the new shorter validity, and in this age group a second dose is considered valid for 210 days or seven months.

READ ALSO: How does Austria’s vaccine mandate compare to other countries?

Travel rules

Note that the above changes to the Green Pass validity only apply for Austria’s domestic 2G rules, in other words visiting venues like restaurants.

For Austria’s entry rules for travellers from overseas, you are considered to have 2G if you have received either two vaccine doses, the second no more than 270 days ago, or three doses.

However, tourists in Austria still need to follow the same 2G rules domestically, so someone who received their second dose between 180 and 270 days ago, and has not yet received a booster, would be allowed into Austria but not to restaurants or hotels.

READ ALSO: What are the rules for entering Austria right now?

Shorter interval for booster doses

Starting from February 1st, it will be possible to get a booster dose from three months (90 days) after the second dose, reduced from four months (120 days).

However, the National Vaccination Committee still recommends getting the booster between four and six months after the second.

Some people who received their booster dose before the four-month limit were unable to receive official proof of this, with their vaccine certificates showing they had received only ‘2/2’ doses instead of ‘3/3’. After the change, these people — around 10,000 of them — should be able to get their valid vaccine proof.

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EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

The much-debated policy sparked controversy since before it was approved in February, meaning that May could be a definitive month in the country.

EXPLAINED: How Austria's compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

Austria’s Federal Government has a ticking time bomb on its hands: an ordinance that suspended its vaccine mandate law is set to expire by the end of May, which means that the controversial mandatory vaccination would be again in place as early as June 1st.

In order to keep that from happening, Austria’s Health Ministry needs to extend the current regulation or create a new one.

If it doesn’t, the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination law would automatically be back in June.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Since, by June, the vaccine mandate stated that non-vaccinated would start getting fines, the resumption of the law would mean that, from next month, those who are not vaccinated could be fined in routine checks, such as traffic checks.

The ins and outs of the vaccine mandate

The law was first introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. The first stage of it was purely “informational”, and Austrian residents received letters explaining about vaccines and about the regulation.

A second stage, when people could have been fined if they were not vaccinated, was set to start in mid-March. Before a single person was fined, though, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.

The law was suspended for a variety of reasons, primarily due to the relatively high vaccination coverage the country had already received, along with the lower virulence of the Omicron variant. 

READ ALSO: Austria to scrap mandatory Covid vaccinations

To create a new regulation or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await the report of the vaccination commission, which should be ready in May, according to the Ministry.

The coronavirus commission will assess whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful from a medical and legal point of view. A previous report said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. However, according to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.