Covid vaccination compulsory in Austria, in EU first


More than 60 percent of Austrians support compulsory jabs, but large swathes of the population remain strongly opposed

It’s official: Austrians over the age of 18 must be vaccinated against Covid-19 from Saturday or face the possibility of a heavy fine, an unprecedented measure in the European Union.

The new measure, adopted on January 20 by Parliament, came into force on Saturday, the culmination of a process that began in November in the face of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

“No other country in Europe is following us on compulsory vaccines,” said Manuel Krautgartner, who has campaigned against the new approach. 

– Checks from mid-March –

The humanitarian association Arbeiter Samariter Bund, which oversees some vaccination sites in the capital Vienna, said there had an uptick in turnout this week.

From the average of around 7,000 injections administered every day in the capital, only 10 percent are a first dose, he said.

“I sincerely believe that the law is the best way” to defeat the pandemic, she said, calling on other countries to follow Austria’s lead.

Non-vaccinated people are currently excluded from restaurants, sports and cultural venues. 

The law applies to all adult residents with the exception of pregnant women, those who have contracted the virus within the past 180 days and those with medical exemptions.

They will, however, be lifted if the person fined gets vaccinated within two weeks.

More than 60 percent of Austrians support the measure, according to a recent survey, but large swathes of the population remain strongly opposed.

Critics have also questioned the need for compulsion given the milder nature of the Omicron variant.

But for Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein, compulsory vaccination is aimed at both protecting the country against new waves and fighting new variants.

In Ecuador, it is compulsory, including for children over the age of five, a world first.

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Originally published as Covid vaccination compulsory in Austria, in EU first