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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

The commission also recommends three doses of the vaccine for people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease.

child vaccination austria
A girl receives her first shot of the corona vaccine in Vienna, Austria on November 15, 2021 (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria’s National Vaccination Board has recommended that children from the age of five get a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, the “booster” dose.

“This third vaccination should take place at the latest at the beginning of the school year ahead of the expected next waves of infection in autumn”, the board said in a press statement.

The third dose is recommended six months after the second shot, the commission added.

Additionally, the updated recommendation given by the government body also clarified that a total of three vaccinations are needed for “the best possible and long-term protection”, even among people who have already been infected with Covid-19.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

The commission stated that “from an immunological point of view, these vaccinations are to be regarded as a basic vaccination”. This means that, in the future, the Covi-19 vaccination schedule will consider three doses of an approved vaccine.

According to the board statement, an infection with the coronavirus would only lead to a postponement of the vaccinations but shouldn’t replace any dose.

Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch reinforced the need for vaccination in the country, which currently has fewer than 70 per cent of its population with two doses of the vaccine up to date.

“The corona vaccination has saved the lives of countless people and continues to do so. The ongoing adaptation of recommendations ensures that new scientific findings are constantly incorporated”, Rauch said in a press statement.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

The new recommendation can be found on Austria’s Health Ministry website. However, the ministry hasn’t specified how the recommendation would affect the Covid-19 passes or the “green pass” validity, especially those held by people who have recovered from the disease.

Covid numbers

Austria this Monday reported 4,111 new coronavirus infections, with 89,861 PCR tests taken in 24 hours. According to the Health Ministry, there are currently 1,492 people hospitalised with the virus (26 fewer than the day before), and 124 people are in intensive care units with Covid.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,054 people have died from the Covid-19.

The alpine country has currently 68.4 per cent of its population with a valid vaccination certificate, and 54.5 per cent of its population has received the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 16th

Austria has recently removed almost all of its coronavirus restrictions, including the need to show a valid vaccination certificate to enter bars and restaurants. The country also dropped its FFP2 mask mandate in all indoor areas except for “essential” places such as public transport, health areas, and supermarkets.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

As Covid-19 infection numbers continue rising, Austria's government doesn't rule out a comeback of the mask requirement.

Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

Austria has seen rising Covid-19 numbers for weeks, and the country’s traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states, with none currently designated as “low risk”.

Virologists and health experts have given many explanations for rising numbers and forecast that new infections, currently at more than 12,000 a day, could reach more than 30,000 in the next few weeks.

Austria’s Covid commission said that the omicron subvariant BA.4/BA.5 is a decisive factor in the increase, as it is considered more infectious. “Additionally, an increased proportion of travel-associated cases has been observed in recent weeks”, the commission stated.

READ ALSO: LATEST: These are the Covid rules in Austria and Vienna from June 2022

Dorothee von Laer, a Med-Uni Innsbruck virologist, told Der Standard that the new subvariant could be responsible for a new wave as “the protection we have from BA1 infections, and from vaccinations, is not so good against BA.4/BA.5”.

“So people who were infected early on, or who are only vaccinated, have of course some protection against hospitalisation, but almost no or very little protection against infection”, she said.

Von Laer mentioned other factors that likely contributed to the increasing numbers, including the fact that people have stopped wearing masks after the requirement was dropped in most of Austria.

Are masks about to make a comeback?

When Austria’s federal government announced they would drop the Covid mask mandate, they phrased it as a “pause” to the FFP2 masks, which were still mandatory in essential trade and public transport.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said that the mask requirement will be “paused”, as the pandemic is not over yet, and that people should be prepared for a resumption of the rules after summer, as The Local reported.

BACKGROUND: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Many experts believe FFP2 masks won’t be optional for long if numbers continue rising. Von Laer said, “we will probably have to resort to the mask again, even if the hospitals are not overcrowded because we want to protect the vulnerable people”.

The health minister had already stated that it is time people “take personal responsibility” so that they choose to wear masks in crowds or when close to vulnerable people.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

However, he recently added that if the situation “goes in the direction of overloading the health system, then, of course, I am also obliged to react”.

The minister also said he reassesses the situation every week, observing developments in other countries.

‘We will have to learn’

For Rauch, people will need to learn to live with the masks, as future waves can also be expected in the coming years. He added that we would have to learn to take personal responsibility, make self-assessments, and have solidarity.

READ ALSO: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contact Covid

He also assumes more flexible measures in the future. For example, public transport signs will ask for the mask mandate during morning traffic hours, but not on empty evening trains.

His goal, the minister stated, was to find a middle ground between demanding as few restrictions as possible and exercising caution.

Covid-19 stats

Austria on Wednesday reported 12,509 new coronavirus infections after 169,948 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 856 people in hospitals with Covid-19 and 47 in intensive care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,779 people have died from the disease.

The country has just over 61 percent of its population with a valid vaccination pass.

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