Austria is the first Western democracy to make Covid vaccination mandatory for nearly all of its adult population, an unthinkable move and is being seen as a test case for other countries that are struggling. struggling with the pocketbook of vaccine resistance.
The sweeping measure, which easily removes the final hurdle of parliament on Thursday when it is passed by lawmakers in the Austrian upper house, will be signed into law as soon as Friday. by the president Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria.
Requests will be introduced in phases.
First, the government plans to send a letter to all Austrians in the next few weeks, informing them of the new regulations and giving them a month to comply. The exemption will only apply to pregnant women, those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, and those who have recently recovered from Covid-19. During this first phase, there will be no penalty for non-compliance.
That changed in mid-March, when police began conducting random checks on vaccination status – including when stopping cars. Those who fail to present proof of vaccination can be fined up to 600 euros (about $675). Those who dispute their fines could eventually see them rise to €3,600 (about $4,100).
In the third phase, where a start date has not been set, the government will create an official vaccination registry for all residents and automatically assess fines for non-compliance. However, if the pandemic recedes enough, the phase may never come into effect, officials said.
Polls show many Austrians in favor of the mandate, but the issue has also sparked a loud protest movement in the country. Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the country in recent months to protest against pandemic restrictions, chief among them the vaccine mandate, for the first time. propose in November. At the time, cases were on the rise in the country, mainly from unvaccinated people, and Austria recommend a key only applies to people who have not been immunized.
About 76 percent of people in Austria Now fully vaccinated. Even so, a new surge that began in late December sent the number of new cases skyrocketing to a record; daily average has almost doubled in the past two weeks.
Mandatory rather than voluntary vaccination has been a threshold that European democracies have long seemed reluctant to cross. Leaders have emphasized respect for civil liberties and contravened the policies of more authoritarian governments.
But as the pandemic drags into its third year with vaccination rates running low in some countries, some leaders have changed their mind.
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“The path to freedom is the duty of a vaccine,” said Chancellor Karl Nehammer of Austria when the law was introduced to parliament last month.
Last year, as Home Secretary, Mr. Nehammer noted the difficulty governments face in convincing skeptics to voluntarily vaccinate.
“It’s not about ideology, it’s about persuasion,” he said. “We can’t do and try to convince enough people who haven’t been immunized to get vaccinated.”
Other countries are keeping a close eye on Austria’s move towards a quasi-global mission.
In neighboring Germany, where about a third of people are not considered fully immunized, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced plans to make universal vaccination mandatory and the country is expected to introduce one next month for health care workers and residents of nursing homes and care facilities. Italy now requires nearly everyone over the age of 50 to be vaccinated; Greece has similar regulations for residents over 60 years old.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/world/europe/austria-covid-vaccine-mandate.html Austria will soon require most adults to get a Covid vaccine