Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate suspended until August

Implementation of the controversial Covid-19 vaccine law has been suspended again following a vote in Austria's parliament.

Austria's compulsory vaccine mandate suspended until August
The Austrian Federal Government has extended the suspension of the controversial mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The suspension of Austria’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law has been officially extended until the end of August 2022.

This means the obligation for Austrian residents to get the vaccination currently does not apply, and those who are not vaccinated will not be fined.

The mandate was originally introduced in February but then suspended in March and would have automatically become law on June 1st if the government hadn’t voted in favour of extending the suspension.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

The decision was made following a vote in the Main Committee on Wednesday, May 25th, and only the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) voted against the bill, according to ORF.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said the current epidemiological situation in Austria does not require the law to be implemented but it will be reviewed again in August.

Rauch also announced plans for enhanced education and more opportunities to get the vaccine from the end of August to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

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

At a press conference on Tuesday about the easing of the mask mandate, Minister of the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler (ÖVP) said: “A focus on the vaccination obligation is currently not justified.”

However, ministers and health experts are still advising people to get a booster of the Covid-19 vaccine before the next winter season to protect against possible new variants and hospitalisation.

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Delays and high demand force Vienna to expand Covid vaccinations

Vienna will expand its Covid vaccine offerings due to high demand, with some waiting up to two hours to get the jab.

Delays and high demand force Vienna to expand Covid vaccinations

Long lines in Viennese vaccination centres led to people having to wait one and a half to two hours to get the coronavirus jab, according to reports in Austria media.

Some people were told to get vaccinated elsewhere due to the high demand. 

Broadcaster ORF said that the surge in demand comes just after the city of Vienna simplified the access to the fourth Covid vaccination. As a result, people can get the shot after four months of the third dose without the need for registration or appointment.

With increasing coronavirus numbers ahead of the summer holidays, the search for the vaccine has also risen. While about 300 people were vaccinated daily less than two weeks ago, about 1,300 people went every day at the weekend, the report said.

Health authorities recommend people make an appointment even though they are not required to. “With an appointment, it’s easier for us to plan, and there is also a separate area for people with appointments”, Susanne Drapalik, chief physician at the Samaritan League, told reporters.

The Austrian capital will also extend the opening hours of the vaccination centres to meet demand.

More information is available here. 

Who should receive a second booster? 

Austria’s GECKO crisis coordinator Katharina Reich and Health Minister Rauch are now calling for vulnerable people to get vaccinated in light of the rising number of corona cases.

“We won’t have any peace in the summer. There is no stability. Vulnerable groups should get vaccinated now and again in the autumn. Everyone else who has already been vaccinated three times should get boosters around eight weeks before the autumn wave,” Reich told Austrian media.

Currently, Austria’s National Vaccination Committee (NIG) has recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but only for those deemed at risk of serious illness.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What should I do if my Austrian Green Pass is expiring

The NIG identifies risk groups as people over 80 and those between the ages of 65 and 79 with a weakened immune system or existing health conditions.

The committee is considering lowering the recommended age to 65, even for people with no other health conditions.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 in Austria: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

In Vienna, the fourth dose can already be given off-label to persons over the age of 65 or to anyone who wants to take it after a medical individual risk-benefit assessment.

Clinical pharmacologist Markus Zeitlinger, from MedUni Vienna, told Kurier that he believes anyone who wants maximum immune protection at all times should get a vaccination now – children excluded. He said since there will be a summer wave, people shouldn’t wait to get protected.

He said there is medically no reason not to get vaccinated in June, and then again as early as October. 

If you have had three vaccinations and had an infection confirmed by PCR test, then no further vaccination is currently recommended.