Austria will soon require most adults to get a Covid shot

Austria is the first Western democracy to make Covid vaccination mandatory for nearly all of its adult population, a once unthinkable mo...

Austria is the first Western democracy to make Covid vaccination mandatory for nearly all of its adult population, a once unthinkable move that is seen as a test for other countries struggling with pockets of vaccine resistance .

The sweeping measure, which easily cleared its final parliamentary hurdle on Thursday when it was approved by lawmakers in Austria’s upper house, will be signed into law as early as Friday. by the president Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria.

The requirement will be introduced in stages.

First, the government plans to send a letter to all Austrians in the coming weeks, informing them of the new rules and giving them a month to comply. The exemptions will only be available for pregnant women, people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and people who have recently recovered from Covid-19. In this first phase, no fine will be imposed for non-compliance.

That changes in mid-March, when police are due to start carrying out random checks on vaccination status, including at roadside checks. People who cannot produce proof of vaccination can be fined up to 600 euros (about $675). Those who challenge their fines could eventually see them increased to €3,600 (about $4,100).

In a third phase, for which no start date has yet been set, the government would create an official vaccination register of all residents and automatically impose fines for non-compliance. If the pandemic recedes enough, however, that phase may never be implemented, officials say.

Polls suggest many Austrians support the mandate, but the issue has also galvanized a vocal protest movement there. Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the country in recent months to oppose pandemic restrictions, foremost among them the vaccine mandate, which was the first proposed in November. At the time, cases were increasing in the country, mainly due to unvaccinated people, and Austria introduces a lock this only applied to the unvaccinated.

On 76% of Austrians are now fully vaccinated. Even so, a new surge that began in late December has driven new cases to record highs; the daily average almost doubled over the past two weeks.

Making vaccines compulsory rather than voluntary has been a threshold that European democracies have long seemed unwilling to cross. Leaders emphasized respect for civil liberties and drew contrasts with the policies of more authoritarian governments.

But as the pandemic drags on into a third year with vaccination rates plateauing in a number of countries, some leaders have changed their minds.

“The path to freedom is the mandate of the vaccine,” Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said during the debate on the law in parliament last month.

Last year, when he was Home Secretary, Mr Nehammer noted the difficulty governments had in persuading skeptics to get vaccinated voluntarily.

“It’s not about ideology, it’s about belief,” he said. “We cannot do and try enough to convince the unvaccinated to be vaccinated.”

Other countries are closely watching Austria’s move to a near-universal mandate.

In neighboring Germany, where around one in three people are not considered fully vaccinated, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced plans for a general vaccination mandate, and the country is expected to introduce one next month for healthcare workers. and residents of nursing homes and care facilities. Italy now requires nearly everyone over 50 to be vaccinated; Greece has a similar rule for residents over 60.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Austria will soon require most adults to get a Covid shot
Austria will soon require most adults to get a Covid shot
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