New Austrian Covid-19 vaccine could protect against Omicron

The vaccine - developed by the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni) - could protect against all existing Covid-19 variants.

New Austrian Covid-19 vaccine could protect against Omicron
A new Covid-19 vaccine developed in Vienna could offer protection against Omicron. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / various sources / AFP)

A new Covid-19 vaccine developed by MedUni in Vienna could offer protection against Omicron, according to the results of a recent study conducted in Austria’s capital city.

The results show the antibody response was stronger with the new vaccine than in people already fully vaccinated with two doses of a registered vaccine, or those who have recovered from the virus.

The vaccine – which is a combination of the Covid-19 and Hepatitis B vaccine – even prompted an antibody response in people who have not yet been vaccinated.

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

The protein-based vaccine is currently known as PreS-RBD and the results of the study were published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The study was led by Rudolf Valenta, a researcher at the Centre for Pathophysiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology at MedUni.

Valenta said: “The vaccine is designed to enable repeated injections to build up lasting sterilising immunity, could be used in all age and risk groups and appears to be superior to the vaccines currently available in terms of induction of neutralising antibodies.” 

The Wiener Zeitung reports that the first clinical trials for approval of the vaccine could be carried out later this year if funding is secured.

The Covid-19 vaccines that are currently approved for use in the EU are BioNTech/Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

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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.