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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria’s vaccine mandate: What you need to know if you have a non EMA-approved vaccine

Austria's vaccine mandate came into force over the weekend, but some of the finer points of the regulation are still being worked out, including what applies to people who received vaccines not recognised in Austria.

Sputnik vaccine
The Sputnik vaccine is not recognised in Austria, but there will be a workaround under the new vaccine mandate law for those who received this jab. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP

The new law makes vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for all adults, though there are exceptions for pregnant people and those who cannot get the jab for medical reasons (this must be proved with a medical certificate). 

Although the law came into effect on Saturday, an additional ordinance is still pending as of Monday, which will set out exactly who is and isn’t considered as vaccinated in Austria. This should be decided on by parliament later on January 7th.

READ MORE: Who is exempt from Austria’s new vaccine mandate?

The vaccinations currently recognised in Austria for 2G purposes are only those approved by the EMA: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer. This has caused problems for people who received other vaccines, for example including Sputnik and Sinopharm, who were affected by the long-running lockdown for the unvaccinated and by 2G restrictions for shops and restaurants. 

Under the 2G rules however, people with a non-EMA approved vaccine can be considered to have proof of 2G if they show proof of antibodies in addition to proof of a single dose of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer only).

This combination is valid as 2G proof for 270 days from the date of your EMA-approved vaccine, according to the Health Ministry.

READ MORE: I had a non-EMA approved vaccine, how do I get 2G proof in Austria?

As for the vaccine mandate, some non-EMA approved vaccines will be considered as proof of vaccination, but not all.

In addition to the four jabs approved by the EMA, two Chinese-manufactured vaccines (Sinovac and Sinopharm) and three from India (Covaxin, Covovax, and Covishield) will be considered as compliant, meaning that people who can show proof of full vaccination from these vaccines should not risk falling foul of the law. These vaccines all have WHO approval and are already accepted as proof of vaccination for the purposes of travel to Austria.

The Sputnik jab however is not considered compliant for the purposes of the vaccine mandate.

According to reports in Austrian media, a special regulation will allow people who received two doses of the Sputnik vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated in Austria, if they get a single dose of an approved vaccine as well as a full course of the non-approved vaccine. This would also apply to other vaccines which are approved abroad but not in Austria. We will update this article once the regulation has been finalised and the details made public.

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COVID-19 ALERT

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.

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