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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria
The new adapted Covid-19 vaccine will be available in Austria from Friday. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

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).

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

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.

FOR MEMBERS: Reader question: Which Austrian states will allow Covid-infected teachers in classrooms?

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.

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

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.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

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