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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria establishes commission to decide on mandatory Covid jabs

Just weeks after the nationwide Covid vaccine mandate was signed into law, the controversial measure is in jeopardy.

A woman walks in a vaccination booth at the vaccination center in Amalienbad in Vienna, Austria, February 05, 2022. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP
Will Austria's vaccine mandate go ahead? Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

A new expert commission which will advise on compulsory vaccination has been set up to ensure any future action regarding the law will be supported on a scientific basis.

The commission will work with GECKO, Austria’s national crisis team.

The compulsory vaccination commission consists of the physicians Eva Schernhammer and Herwig Kollaritsch, medical lawyer Karl Stöger and legal scholar Christiane Wendehorst.

EXPLAINED: How Austria’s vaccine mandate will work

Austria’s compulsory vaccination law – the first in Europe – is set to come into effect on March 16th, when “phase two” will mean police can also check vaccination certificates and report violations to the district administration authorities.

The commission will make its first report the week before, on March 8th.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) pointed out Austria’s vaccination law was supported by a large majority and was drawn up in a joint process by the federal government with experts and parts of the opposition.

However, the law has come under increasing doubt, due to the stabilising Covid situation and the relaxation of Austria’s Covid measures from early March onwards. 

After the announcement on Wednesday, Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein, from The Greens, spoke to ZIB2 about the relaxation of restrictions and said he “assumed” the vaccination mandate would still be implemented from March 15th.

Additionally, Mückstein said it is expected that the planned penalties for unvaccinated people will also be enforced from the same date. 

READ MORE: Will Austria’s vaccine mandate go ahead?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

What to know about Austria’s new advice on Covid vaccines

As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, each country developed its own vaccination recommendation, which often changed. Here is the new advice from the Austrian vaccination panel.

What to know about Austria's new advice on Covid vaccines

The Austrian National Vaccination Panel has updated its recommendations on Covid vaccination on several points, the Ministry of Health announced.

“Special attention continues to be paid to the completion of the basic immunisation, which is recommended for all persons five years of age and older, and to the booster vaccination,” according to the Ministry of Health.

The booster shot is generally available to all persons 12 years of age and older and is free of charge, but it is especially recommended for persons 60 years of age and older and those at risk.

READ ALSO: Masks against Covid and flu: What’s ahead for Austria this winter

In Austria, the basic immunisation against Covid-19 consists of three vaccine doses. A fourth dose, also known as a booster shot, is also recommended.

What is new in the recommendation?

Austria is adding a new coronavirus vaccine, from Sanofi (VidPrevtyn Beta), to the list of offers against the virus. The new vaccine is protein-based and has already been approved by the European authorities. 

In Austria, the Sanofi vaccine can be used from the third vaccination onwards on people older than 18. The offer will be available at the vaccination sites in the coming week at the earliest, according to the Ministry. 

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

Another change is that the variant Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4-5 from BioNTech/Pfizer will also be used for the third vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years. 

This vaccine is specially adapted to the virus variants Omicron BA.4 and 5. It is now available for children in a special application shot that should be in vaccination sites starting next week at the earliest. 

READ ALSO: What to expect from the ski season in Austria this winter

Also included in the recommendations is a clarification specifically on an additional booster vaccination (fifth vaccination). 

People at risk from the age of 18, and those from the age of 60 can receive the additional booster vaccination four months after the fourth vaccination. According to the vaccination panel, no fifth vaccination is necessary for healthy people under 60.

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