For members


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

As Covid numbers increase in Austria, politicians and health experts are debating whether to recommend a fourth dose of the vaccine as soon as this summer.

Covid-19 in Austria: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?
Austria is considering changing recommendations for the fourth dose as Covid numbers rise. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria has reported an increase in Covid infection numbers and a worrying upwards trend that has experts and authorities ​​considering if they should recommend a fourth dose of the vaccine earlier than the expected Autumn booster campaign.

Despite the number being nowhere near the almost 70,000 just 45 days ago, the recent upwards trend, when cases should be steady or decreasing over summer, is the main cause of concern.

Back in June, authorities were much more optimistic.

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

“The number of new infections has fallen, as well as the number of people in hospitals due to Covid-19, for several weeks now. This is good news”, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said just as the Ministry announced it would “pause” the mandatory use of FFP2 masks.

The plan was to bring back the masks after summer – assuming the warm season would have fewer cases and less risk.

Rising Covid numbers

On Thursday, June 9th, Austria reported 5,144 coronavirus infections after 123,751 PCR tests were taken, according to the Health Ministry.

The previous week, there were 3,035 new infections (with 157,154 PCR tests taken).

There are currently 470 people in hospitals with Covid-19, and 39 people in intensive care units, according to the Ministry.

Just under 64 percent of the population has a valid vaccination document. The number keeps decreasing as vaccines expire, and many people don’t take their booster dose.

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

The increase coincides with the removal of almost all coronavirus restrictions. In general, the only regulation still in place outside of the health sector is in Vienna, where people need to wear an FFp2 mask in public transport.

People who test positive also need to isolate for at least five days.

Will the fourth vaccine dose be recommended for everyone?

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.

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.

What is advised as numbers rise?

The virologist Dorothea van Laer from the University of Innsbruck has asked people to wear masks in summer, speaking to the ZIB2 programme.

She said it was particularly important for those in frequent contact with vulnerable people. She also advised people to get boosted if they hadn’t taken their third dose yet.

READ ALSO: Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate suspended until August

Van Laer also criticised the lack of knowledge about immunity in the population of Austria, stating:

“We don’t have a representative study on the contamination of the Austrian population. We don’t even know if we have a problem at all or if, like in England, 99 percent of people already have antibodies and a certain amount of protection against severe illness.”

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Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

People who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate in Austria. Here is what you need to know.

Austria to remove quarantine for positive Covid-19 cases

Austria will remove the mandatory self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for Covid-19 from August 1st, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said in a press conference on Tuesday.

People who do not feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes even after a positive Covid-19 test but will have to follow specific requirements, the Austrian federal government said.

“We believe we have a good balance now”, Rauch said.

The so-called “traffic restrictions” mean that those who don’t feel sick will be allowed to leave their homes but must wear an FFP2 mask indoors and outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible.

The health minister said that people who feel sick should call their doctors and ask for a sick leave.

Additionally, there are entry bans in hospitals, nursing and elderly care homes, childcare facilities, elementary schools and daycare centres.

READ ALSO: What are the fines for not wearing masks on Vienna’s public transport?

However, employees of these areas will be allowed to go to work – with the mask mandate – even if they are infected. The only exceptions are professions that are made impossible to do with a mask on, such as speech therapists and musicians.

The restrictions are valid for a maximum of 10 days and as soon as there is a positive antigen test. But a negative PCR test (or PCR test with a CT value over 30 as shown in the laboratory results) allows people to leave the “traffic restrictions” after the fifth day.

In the case of restaurants and bars, people are allowed to go inside, sit and chat but must wear a mask at all times – meaning they cannot consume food and beverages.

BACKGROUND: Will Austria drop quarantine and isolation for positive Covid-19 cases?

“We cannot live this degree of pandemic-related crisis mood for years”, health minister Johannes Rauch said. However, he added that if the situation appears to be getting worse again, the government will impose stricter measures.

He reiterated that the pandemic situation has reached a new stage. “We have the vaccine, we have medication, people are getting milder courses of the disease than before”, Rauch stated.

Protection for risk groups

Labour minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) said risk groups should be protected, and a specific ordinance is being prepared for workplaces where there are people at risk. 

Kocher said that companies will be able to work out measures such as work-from-home schemes for people at risk. Additionally, workers that belong to vulnerable groups could be exempted from work by presenting a “risk certificate”.

Experts sceptical

SPÖ health spokesperson Philip Kucher said that the government had abandoned the pandemic management, calling a lifting of isolation requirements “irresponsible and dangerous” and demanding a proper pandemic response plan for the autumn.

“A quarantine end for infected people would be dangerous and could bring the health care system back to its limits. An irresponsible and dangerous game”, he wrote in a statement.

READ ALSO: ‘At the limit: Huge spike in Covid hospitalisations and deaths in Austria

Austria’s federal government can set up the minimum requirements for the country, but individual states could impose stricter rules.

Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig said he thought the relaxation was a “step in the wrong direction”, but if quarantine is abolished at a national level, the Austrian capital will not go a different way and keep quarantine, as it would be too difficult to implement with the city receiving 300,000 commuters every day.

Surprisingly the wife of Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch has also criticised the plan to relax quarantine.

Gabi Sprickler-Falschlunger, the Vorarlberg SPÖ state party leader, says it is undoubtedly the “wrong decision” and predicts a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections.

Covid-19 numbers

On Tuesday, Austria recorded 9,213 new coronavirus cases after 125,571 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry.

There were 1,604 people in hospitals with Covid-19, 56 more than the day before, and 93 in intensive care units (five more than the previous day).

Currently, just 60.2 percent of the population has valid immunological protection – meaning a combination of vaccines and/or recovered status accepted by the federal government.