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KEY POINTS: What’s in Austria’s vaccine mandate bill?

The Austrian government on Sunday announced the details of its draft law on a sweeping vaccine mandate for those over 18 years old. Here are the crucial takeaways.

Protesters hold a poster reading
Protesters hold a poster reading "No to compulsory vaccinations" as they demonstrate against the Austrian government's measures taken in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on December 11, 2021 in Vienna, Austria, amidst the novel coronavirus / Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: FLORIAN WIESER / APA / AFP

Austria’s government confirmed on Wednesday that it would try and pass a vaccine mandate law that would apply to all residents of the country aged 18 and over.

  • There will be exceptions made for pregnant women, people who are exempt from vaccination due to medical reasons, and those who have tested positive for an infection with the coronavirus in the previous 180 days.
  • People’s vaccine status will be controlled by the police, for example at traffic control points.
  • Those who are found not to have been vaccinated will face an initial fine of €600 or up to €3,600 if they decide to challenge it in court.
  • People can avoid a fine if they get their first vaccination within two weeks of being caught.
  • The fines will only come into affect in mid-March.
  • A single person can be fined a maximum of four times during the year.
  • No one will go to prison if they refuse to pay their fines.

At the presentation of the bill, health minister Wolfgang Mückstein said that “vaccination protects – it protects us and our fellow citizens, and a high level of vaccination coverage protects our health system.”

The bill will be discussed by the Austrian parliament in the coming week.

Over the weekend thousands of people took to the streets of Vienna to protest against the compulsory vaccination bill.

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What to know about Austria’s new advice on Covid vaccines

As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, each country developed its own vaccination recommendation, which often changed. Here is the new advice from the Austrian vaccination panel.

What to know about Austria's new advice on Covid vaccines

The Austrian National Vaccination Panel has updated its recommendations on Covid vaccination on several points, the Ministry of Health announced.

“Special attention continues to be paid to the completion of the basic immunisation, which is recommended for all persons five years of age and older, and to the booster vaccination,” according to the Ministry of Health.

The booster shot is generally available to all persons 12 years of age and older and is free of charge, but it is especially recommended for persons 60 years of age and older and those at risk.

READ ALSO: Masks against Covid and flu: What’s ahead for Austria this winter

In Austria, the basic immunisation against Covid-19 consists of three vaccine doses. A fourth dose, also known as a booster shot, is also recommended.

What is new in the recommendation?

Austria is adding a new coronavirus vaccine, from Sanofi (VidPrevtyn Beta), to the list of offers against the virus. The new vaccine is protein-based and has already been approved by the European authorities. 

In Austria, the Sanofi vaccine can be used from the third vaccination onwards on people older than 18. The offer will be available at the vaccination sites in the coming week at the earliest, according to the Ministry. 

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

Another change is that the variant Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4-5 from BioNTech/Pfizer will also be used for the third vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years. 

This vaccine is specially adapted to the virus variants Omicron BA.4 and 5. It is now available for children in a special application shot that should be in vaccination sites starting next week at the earliest. 

READ ALSO: What to expect from the ski season in Austria this winter

Also included in the recommendations is a clarification specifically on an additional booster vaccination (fifth vaccination). 

People at risk from the age of 18, and those from the age of 60 can receive the additional booster vaccination four months after the fourth vaccination. According to the vaccination panel, no fifth vaccination is necessary for healthy people under 60.