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COVID-19 VACCINES

Which groups are most vaccine hesitant in Austria?

The vaccination rate in Austria varies between different socio-economic groups in the country, as new data from Statistics Austria shows. Just under 69 percent of the population are considered fully vaccinated.

Which groups are most vaccine hesitant in Austria?
A health worker prepares a syringe with the Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine by Biontech-Pfizer. Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

In total, 78 percent of the Austrian population have some form of protection against the virus because 14 percent have had a confirmed Covid infection, most of whom were not vaccinated.

Vaccination rates are higher among people born in Austria, at 70.4 percent, than those born outside Austria, at 64.4 percent (although it’s worth noting that Austria does not currently recognise some vaccines used in other countries, including notably the Sputnik vaccine used widely in Russia and neighbouring Hungary for example).

OPINION: Austria’s vaccine mandate is politically high-risk with limited benefits

But there are also significant differences among international residents depending on country of origin.

People born in the Czech Republic (74 percent vaccination rate), Germany (73.1 percent), Afghanistan (73 percent) and Italy (71.1 percent) were all more likely than native Austrians to be vaccinated, while eight countries had vaccination rates below 60 percent: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and Romania.

Again, the use of different vaccinations in these countries likely plays a role as several foreign residents travelled to their home countries to get the Covid vaccine. Statistics Austria also notes: “The proportion of children and young people among non-Austrian nationals is higher than among people born abroad” and that children have a lower vaccination rate.

EXPLAINED: How to claim your 100 euro vaccination bonus in Austria

There was also a link between level of education and vaccination willingness. Among people of working age (25 to 64), the rate of vaccination was just below 82 percent for those with a university degree, compared to 69% for those whose highest level of education was completing compulsory education.

The statistics also show that people who are employed have a higher vaccination rate at 76 percent than people who are unemployed, at 71 percent. 

People working in international organisations (such as embassies or the UN) had the highest vaccination rate at 84.6 percent, followed by those working in information and communication (83.4 percent), public administration (82.1 percent) and finance or insurance (81.8 percent). The professions with the lowest rate of vaccination were construction (67.6 percent), agriculture and forestry (69.6 percent) and working in private households (69.7 percent).

Vaccination rates were higher among older age groups, with rates above 80 percent for over-60s, and between 70 to 80 percent for people aged between 15 and 59.

And the statistics showed that 42 percent of children aged 10 to 14 had received the Covid-19 vaccine, along with 18.4 percent of those aged five to nine. Around 20 percent of children in these age groups had been infected with Covid and not vaccinated, likely leaving them with some level of protection against the virus.

At the start of the month Austria became the first EU country to introduce a law making vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory. However, it has not yet started issuing fines or carrying out checks on vaccine status, and it looks increasingly unlikely that this will happen as the country plans to remove most Covid measures from March 5th.

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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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