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COVID-19 VACCINES

Vienna rolls out special vaccinations for the ‘needle-phobic’

While few of us actually like needles, for the needle-phobic a vaccination can be literally terrifying.

People queue for a vaccine against Covid in Vienna. The Austrian capital is taking steps to make it easier for those with a phobia of needles to get the jab. ALEX HALADA / AFP
People queue for a vaccine against Covid in Vienna. The Austrian capital is taking steps to make it easier for those with a phobia of needles to get the jab. ALEX HALADA / AFP

Vienna has created a special vaccination offer for people who are afraid of needles.

Those anxious about being jabbed can be injected in a redesigned sauna area in the Brigittenau indoor pool which has been designed with comfortable seating and planting to create an atmosphere which will soothe people’s nerves.

The centre is accessed by a private door and you will not have to queue with others. Specially trained staff will also be there to ease nerves, including doctors and psychologists, who will wear street clothes, and will not wear gloves.

The offer is intended to help people who are phobic about needles and injections, but could also be used by those who experience strong conflicting views about vaccination in their communities.

The scheme is one of several steps the Austrian government has taken to remove the barriers to vaccination. 

Another vaccine, Novavax, will be rolled out in late February. 

Currently, more than 31,300 Austrians have registered for a vaccination with Novavax.

Austria has ordered 750,000 doses of the vaccine for the first quarter of 2022.

READ MORE: When will the Novavax vaccine be available in Austria?

It is hoped some people who currently refuse to be vaccinated may be persuaded to with the new vaccine, which is a protein subunit vaccine, using different technology to the mRNA and vector vaccines previously approved in the EU.

Approximately 69 percent of the Austrian population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, which is lower than most of western Europe. 

Austria approved a compulsory vaccination mandate in February, with penalties for those who remain unvaccinated to be rolled out in mid-March. 

EXPLAINED: How Austria’s vaccine mandate will work

The likely penalties include fines, with the Austrian government ruling out imprisonment for those who refuse to get vaccinated. 

For more information on the program, call the free phone number 01/4000-53000, which is open daily from 8.00 to 20:00.

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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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