20 Jan 2022 8:40 p.m
In Austria, too, a general obligation to vaccinate was ruled out for a long time – now it’s a done deal. A billion dollar lottery should also convince the vaccine skeptics. With this, Austria ventures far ahead in the EU.
Austria is introducing a general obligation to vaccinate to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Council decided on Thursday with a large majority. The step is the most far-reaching regulation in the EU so far, Italy and Greece only have compulsory vaccination for older people. In addition, a vaccination lottery worth up to 1.4 billion euros is intended to increase the willingness to immunize in Austria.
The compulsory vaccination should apply to all citizens who are at least 18 years old. Exceptions are made for pregnant women and anyone who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Those who have recovered are also exempt from the obligation to vaccinate up to 180 days after contracting COVID-19. Violations of the obligation are subject to income-related penalties of up to 3,600 euros. The Bundesrat, i.e. the chamber of the federal states, will probably also have to approve the law on February 3 – but that is considered a formality.
Austria’s Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) defended the corona vaccination requirement in the parliamentary debate as an act of solidarity and cohesion. “The more people have a corona vaccination, the fewer die as a result of a corona pandemic,” said the minister on Thursday.
The head of the opposition Social Democrats also backed the plan. “The vaccination saves lives, your own life and the life of others,” said SPÖ chairwoman and epidemiologist Pamela Rendi-Wagner. Although the government has missed a lot in the past two years, the vaccination gaps can now only be closed with compulsory vaccination. The liberal NEOS called for a roadmap for lifting restrictions on freedom.
The right-wing FPÖ is the only parliamentary party against the move. FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl said:
“The introduction of this compulsion is a gigantic attack on the freedom of the people in Austria, an attack on the human dignity of the population.”
The law is to be implemented in several stages. Random checks by the authorities are not planned until mid-March. For example, the police should also check the vaccination status during their operations. There has also been criticism from the police union for this additional task. The originally planned complete control by comparing the population register with the vaccination register is only intended as an option. This measure should be made dependent on whether the vaccination rate increases significantly, as hoped.
According to the government, 500 euros can be won for each partial vaccination in the vaccination lottery, which can be redeemed as vouchers in restaurants or in retail. Not only those who decide late can take part, but also those who are already protected. Around every tenth stitch should be rewarded in this way. A total of 75 million euros will be distributed to communities with a vaccination rate of 80 percent, 150 million euros to 85 percent and 300 million euros to 90 percent.
Health Minister Mückstein described a quota of 85 to 90 percent among the vaccinable population aged five and over as the target. It is currently around 75 percent. The vaccination rate of the total population is 72 percent.
More on the subject – Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer announces FFP2 mask requirements outdoors