Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Thursday

Find out what's going on in Austria today with The Local's short round-up of the news.

An example of a coronavirus vaccination passport.
Photo by Lukas on Unsplash

Chancellor Kurz will propose a vaccination passport at an EU summit 

Sebastian Kurz wants to propose a “Green Passport” vaccine and test certificate modelled on Israel’s at Thursday’s EU summit.

According to Wiener Zeitung newspaper Greece supports the proposal along with Bulgaria. Kurz told journalists the certificate could bring freedom of travel back within the European Union.

He said he had spoken to numerous EU counterparts as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about it. However, the opposition FPÖ party in Austria said Kurz wanted to bring in surveillance for Austrians with “compulsory testing, compulsory vaccination and compulsory labelling”. 

Kurz in Israel to talk about vaccine production 

Chancellor Kurz and Danish PM Frederiksen are meeting today in Israel for talks with government representatives about the Israeli Covid-19 vaccination strategy and possible future vaccine production.

Sharon Alroy-Preis of the Israeli Ministry of Health told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper that Israel was a major biotech location and the country has an excellent reputation as a home for start-ups. He said: “All of these make us an excellent location for vaccine production.”

Vienna to start giving AstraZeneca vaccine to over 65s. 

Vienna’s City Councillor for Health Peter Hacker has announced he will be offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to over 65s in Austria’s capital over the next few weeks.

He expressed “incomprehension” on Wednesday in a press conference about the vaccination board’s decision to continue to advise the vaccine be given to younger people

Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, the scientific director of the National Vaccination Committee, thinks the Viennese approach is “by no means wrong”, Wiener Zeitung reports. 

Women are paid less than men in Austria

Statistics Austria figures showing the wage gap between men and women in Austria is only slowly closing. In 2019, women in Austria earned 19.9 percent less per hour than men in the private sector. According to Wiener Zietung newspaper in an EU comparison, Austria is still well above the European average of 14.1 percent.

Were ‘Austrian’ masks made in China?

Local mask manufacturer Hygiene Austria’s government contract is now on hold following a raid, according to Der Standard. The company was formed in spring 2020 with the stated aim of manufacturing face masks in Austria, rather than relying on imports from overseas.

Investigators now suspect that Hygiene Austria imported FFP2 masks from China and then had them relabelled “Made in Austria” with the help of illegal workers.

The company has links to the government, as the managing director of Hygiene Austria, Tino Wieser, is related by marriage to the office manager of Kurz.

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Vaccine scramble: How Spaniards want Covid jabs more than other Europeans

Whilst the EU warns that unused doses due to vaccine scepticism are piling up, Spaniards of all ages want to achieve immunity against Covid-19 as soon as possible, the data shows. 

Vaccine scramble: How Spaniards want Covid jabs more than other Europeans
People queue to get the vaccine in Barcelona. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

In Spain, where the Covid-19 rollout has gone from one of the slowest in the EU to currently one of the fastest, pretty much everyone wants to get vaccinated. 

With priority groups almost fully immunised, Spain is still beating daily records with 600,000 to 700,000 doses administered every day. 

The spike in cases among the country’s young population has led several regions to bring forward jabs for teens and twenty-somethings ahead of people in their thirties.

Despite the apparent lack of concern for the pandemic witnessed  in packed squares and streets over the past weeks, young people who have been able to take advantage of the vaccine offer have headed en masse to the vaccination centres. 

When an Asturian youth called Ana Santos told a local newspaper that “after the elderly, it should be our turn to get vaccinated as it’s not as if people in their forties go out, is it?”, her comments went down like a tonne of bricks among this age group, who demanded it was their turn to reach full immunisation first. 

Vaccine scepticism hasn’t been a problem for Spain as it has been for other countries, with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen launching a warning recently that vaccine supplies are piling up, even though Brussels has reached its target of providing enough doses to fully vaccinate 70 percent of EU adults.

“If we look at the statistics, more and more doses remain unused,” von der Leyen told journalists in Strasbourg.

“This is linked to the fact that there is a greater distribution of vaccines, but in part also due to doubts about vaccination,” adding that it was crucial to reach the most sceptical parts of the population” in the face of the “worrying” presence of the Delta variant.

“Traditionally in Spain, we have had much less resistance or rejection towards vaccines, that’s always been the case,” vaccine expert at the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) Ángel Hernández-Merino told 20minutos. 

“In any vaccination programme, it’s vital to count on the population being willing to accept the vaccination”.

A June 2021 Eurobarometer study found that 49 percent of people in Spain want to get vaccinated “as soon as possible”, the highest rate in the entire EU (32 percent EU average). 

Whereas an average of 9 percent of EU citizens don’t ever want to get vaccinated, the rate in Spain is 4 percent.  Around 63 percent of Spaniards told Eurobarometer that they couldn’t understand why people are hesitant to get vaccinated and 71 percent said Covid vaccines are the only way for the pandemic to end. 

In Belgium, around a third of the population doesn’t want to get vaccinated.

In other countries where in the earlier stages of the Covid vaccination campaign it seemed  that available doses were easily used up it’s now becoming evident that sprinting through the age groups doesn’t guarantee that everyone is being vaccinated. 

Germany, the UK and the US, all seen as examples to Spain of how to quickly immunise a population, have all seen their campaigns slow down due to hesitancy and the summer holidays.

Spain’s Health Ministry doesn’t give data on how many people have rejected the vaccine and why, but stats do show that already more than half of the population (57.5 percent) have at least one dose and 43.3 percent are fully vaccinated. 

The Spanish government has stuck to its objective of vaccinating 70 percent of the country’s 47 million people before the end of August, even though it did fall short of its June target by more than half a million doses. 

Rather than vaccine scepticism, what’s been holding up Spain’s inoculation campaign have been doubts over the administration of second AstraZeneca vaccines and the decision to keep a reserve in case the country experienced delivery setbacks as it has in the past, with 2.9 million doses in storage reported in late June.