Austria to start administering new adapted Covid vaccines

The coronavirus vaccines adapted to the omicron variants should be available from the end of next week, Austria's Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Austria to start administering new adapted Covid vaccines
Omicron-adapted vaccines are coming to Austria. Photo by Steven Cornfield on Unsplash

Austria’s Health Ministry confirmed the new coronavirus vaccines adapted to omicron variants are on their way to the country and should be ready to be administered by the end of next week.

The vaccines are expected to arrive in the country by September 9th and should then be distributed to vaccination centres across the federal states. The new option is a so-called bivalent vaccine, in other words, a vaccine that works by stimulating an immune response against two different variants.

In this case the Wuhan variant and the BA.1 variant. They should increase neutralising antibodies by a factor of 1.5.

READ ALSO: Austria announces new Covid-19 vaccination campaign

With the first delivery, about 750,000 vaccine doses of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine and about 290,000 doses of the adapted Moderna vaccine will reach Austria. They should be used as booster vaccinations or a fourth shot. The original ones will still be used to complete basic immunisation (in Austria, that means three doses).

Government looking to ‘pass on’ unused vaccines

There is no risk of vaccine shortages in the European Union, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said.

On the contrary: “Everyone currently has too many vaccines”, the minister added.

Austria currently has about 17 million doses in stock, and there are 6.8 million partially vaccinated people. The minister wants to make it easier to “pass on” vaccines that are not needed, he said.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

“The passing on of doses is strictly regulated in the contracts. I am trying very hard to keep the global south in mind as well”, Rauch stated.

Covid stats in Austria

On Tuesday, Austria recorded 4,247 new corona infections in the past 24 hours, slightly more than the average of the last seven days (4,063).

The total number of active confirmed infections decreased by 2,818 compared to Monday, reported by the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Health.

The number of hospital patients with corona also fell slightly to 939. Fifty-four people were being cared for in intensive care units (nine fewer than on Monday and 15 fewer than the week before).

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria

The seven-day incidence is now 315 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. These infections were detected with the help of 133,696 PCR and antigen rapid tests, of which 101,873 were PCR tests.

Since Monday, there have been 13 more deaths. On a seven-day average, 6.9 people died every day. There were 48 deaths in total last week and 19,455 since the pandemic outbreak.

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Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Austria's national vaccination board changed the recommendations for when to get the fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Over this weekend, Austria’s national vaccination board (NIG) released an updated recommendation on Covid-19 immunisation, changing its previous guidance for the fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccination slightly.

According to the NIG, booster vaccinations can be given to persons aged 12 years and older and are recommended for anyone who wants to protect themselves.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria

In particular, the 4th vaccination is advised for persons over 60 years of age, persons at risk of severe disease progression (including pregnant women) and persons with an increased risk of exposure (healthcare workers, people in long-term nursing or care facilities, etc.).

The recommended interval between the third and fourth doses is from six months for people between 12 and 59 years old, NIG said. For those over 60 or risk patients, that interval is from 4 months.

What has changed then?

The main difference is the recommendation for those who have had a Covid-19 infection after their third shot.

“An infection in vaccinated persons usually leads to a booster effect (hybrid immunity), which can affect the optimal timing of the next vaccination.”, NIG said.

However, the board specified that infection could only be “counted” after it was confirmed with a PCR test.

READ ALSO: Austria announces new Covid-19 vaccination campaign

So, if you have had a PCR-confirmed infection after your second or third shot and it was an asymptomatic case, you may follow the regular vaccination scheme. However, you can also postpone your vaccination for up to six months.

If you had a symptomatic case, you may postpone your next dose for up to six months only if you are younger than 60 and not of a risk group.

NIG said: “Persons vaccinated three times who have also had a proven omicron infection show a good booster response and cross-immunity”.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

It added: In such cases, especially in persons under 60 years of age, the 4th vaccination within a period of up to 6 months does not achieve any further improvement in immune protection and thus, the 4th vaccination can be postponed accordingly.