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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Austria formally scraps mandatory Covid vaccination law

Just months after announcing mandatory nationwide Covid vaccinations under threats of financial penalties, Austria has unanimously decided to scrap the law.

Austria formally scraps mandatory Covid vaccination law

Austria’s National Council unanimously decided to repeal the vaccination obligation law and associated regulations, the Parliament said on Thursday. 

In making the announcement, the ÖVP and Greens coalition stated that the lifting is in no way intended to reduce the relevance of the vaccination’s contribution to managing the pandemic, particularly concerning lowering the impact of severe courses of the disease. 

They continue to incentivise people to get the vaccines, but now there is no legal obligation.

End of the road for controversial mandate

The controversial measure was announced late in 2021 and had been put into effect in February, with penalties for non-compliance to be introduced in March. 

The laws included a set of regulations allowing police to check people’s vaccinated status. Those that could not prove they were either vaccinated, or recently recovered from the disease, would have to pay a fine.

Before these penalties were introduced however, the law was suspended until August. 

At the time, the government said the suspension was due to the combined impact of the lower virulence of the Omicron variant and the impact of widespread vaccination coverage across the country. 

“The omicron variant changed the situation”, health minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said at the time. 

He added that the law was introduced in a different context and was supported by “a clear majority” at the time when hospitals were full and “intensive care units were on the limit”.

The minister said that the new variant has reduced the effectiveness of vaccination against infections and has caused less severe courses of the disease.

“Even people who are willing to vaccinate in principle are now more difficult to convince of the need for a third dose”.

Rauch said the obligation to vaccinate did not increase the take up of the Covid jab. Instead, it “opened deep trenches in Austrian society”, according to the minister.