EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria
The new adapted Covid-19 vaccine has arrived in Austria. Here's everything you need to know about what it is and how to get it.
What is the new vaccine?
The latest delivery by BioNTech/Pfizer is an adapted Covid-19 vaccine that has been designed to offer better protection against the Omicron variant of the virus.
It is a bivalent vaccine, which means half of it is directed towards the original strain of Covid-19, and the other half is directed at BA.4 and BA.5 (the current dominant strains of Omicron).
The roll-out of the new vaccine will be used for booster shots (third and fourth dose), not initial vaccinations.
There are currently 775,000 doses of the adapted vaccine in Austria, with more deliveries coming soon. Moderna has also developed a bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which is expected to be delivered to Austria in the next few weeks.
The adapted vaccine has full approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
When is it available?
The new vaccine will be automatically used for all booster shots in Austria from Friday September 16th.
However, a spokesman for Federal Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) told Der Standard that anyone receiving a booster next week should double check that they are getting the new adapted vaccine.
The spokesperson specifically said it could take a few days for the new process to be rolled out at small vaccination centres or in rural areas.
Who should get it?
The adapted Covid-19 vaccine will be available for everyone, from high risk groups to healthy young people. There is no prioritisation for this roll-out.
For some people though, receiving the adapted vaccine will actually be their first booster (third shot) after they missed the third dose due to infection and then waiting for the new vaccine.
How to make an appointment
In Vienna, anyone can book a vaccination appointment online at impfservice.wien or by calling 1450. The website even has a vaccine calculator tool to find out the best time to get the next shot.
Nationally, information about making a vaccination appointment can be found at info.gesundheitsministerium.gv.at. The portal then redirects to individual state healthcare websites with details about vaccination locations.
Alternatively, you can contact your doctor (Hausarzt) to find out more about making an appointment.
Is it worth getting the fourth dose?
The National Vaccination Committee (NIG) has advised everyone over the age of 12 to get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, six months after the third dose.
Herwig Kollaritsch, Infectiologist and member of the NIG, recently told Der Standard that the fourth dose - known as the fourth stitch in Austria - is highly recommended because many people received the third dose more than nine months ago.
However, Kollaritsch did say: "In order to prevent severe courses, young people would not necessarily need the fourth vaccination."
There are also uncertainties surrounding when someone should get the fourth dose after being infected with the virus. Although many virologists recommend getting the booster as soon as possible.
Anyone with questions about the Covid-19 vaccination can call the Coronavirus Infoline on 0800 555 621. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Find out more about Covid-19 and the vaccine at gesundheit.gv.at.