Why are the numbers of fully-vaccinated people going down in Austria?

Despite vaccinations continuing, Austria's percentage of fully vaccinated people is decreasing. What happened?

Why are the numbers of fully-vaccinated people going down in Austria?
A woman is vaccinated at the vaccination center in Amalienbad in Vienna, Austria, February 05, 2022. - Austria's president on February 4, 2022 signed a law making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all adults, a first in the European Union. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

In comparisons among different countries, it is common to see that just 69 per cent of the Austrian population is “fully vaccinated.”

According to the Health Ministry, a month ago, that number was at 69.48 per cent – just yesterday, it was 69.05 per cent.

But people don’t “unvaccinate,” so why are numbers going down?

While most countries measure their Covid-19 vaccination rate by the number of people with at least two doses of a valid vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccination, Austria follows different criteria. And that has influenced its data considerably.

Unlike many other countries, Austria doesn’t present the data in terms of “people with two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.”

Instead, 69 per cent refers to the part of the population with a “valid vaccination certificate.”

Validity rules

In order to have a valid vaccination certificate, it is essential to consider the validity rules or the expiration dates of the vaccination.

Austria has a “validity calculator” that you can use to see when your doses are no longer valid.

The second vaccination against Covid (or the first one in case of recovery from the disease) is valid in Austria for a maximum of 180 days from the day it is received.

Beginning in early 2022, those who received one shot of the Janssen/Johnson&Johnson vaccine also had to get a second dose to obtain a certificate that fulfils the 2G rule.

Any additional vaccination, which currently means the third dose or booster shot, is valid for 270 days.

There are different rules for children. For 12 to 17-year-olds, the recommendation for a booster shot is six months after the primary immunisation. Children younger than 12 do not need to have a third vaccination.

The rules for entry into Austria are also different. Those with just one dose of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine are considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of travel to the country. Additionally, according to the entry regulation, the second dose is valid for 270 days from the day it is received.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are Austria’s current entry and Covid rules?

Especially since Austria has started its vaccination campaign early, expiration has been a problem for hundreds of thousands of people. So far, 456,000 Covid passes have expired in Austria, as people failed to go for their booster shot on time, Der Standard reported citing government data.

By May 1st, the Health Ministry says some 600,000 people would have to get their third dose to keep their Covid passes valid.

Austria recorded just over 15,000 third doses administered in the last seven days. The overall numbers have been going down weekly, with 8.36 per cent fewer doses administered in the last seven days than in the previous week.

With more Covid passes expiring than people taking their shots, the number associated with “fully vaccinated” has decreased in Austria.

In comparison, Germany currently has 76 per cent of its population fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Still, that number includes every second vaccination or first vaccination after recovery and every vaccination with the Janssen vaccine, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

More problems ahead

Austria is set to head into more problems as booster shots expire and a fourth dose is still not recommended. There is still no solution for expired passes in those cases.

So far, fewer than 200 people are in this situation – those would have to be the very first ones to take a booster, more than nine months ago. The Health Ministry says that it’s currently working on a solution for those cases but didn’t specify whether it would require a fourth dose or just extend the booster shots’ validity.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Austria to scrap mandatory Covid vaccinations

The European Union is trying to reach a consensus on the need for the fourth dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The European Commission should draw up a recommendation soon, Reuters reported last week.

Latest Covid numbers

From Sunday to Monday, 12,305 new infections were registered in Austria. This is below the average of the past seven days of 21,725. According to the Health Ministry, 275,956 people in Austria are actively infected with the coronavirus.

The seven-day incidence is 1,708.54. In the past 24 hours, 171,959 new PCR tests have been carried out. This results in a positive rate of 6.36 per cent.

In addition, there are 17 new deaths related to Covid-19 infection. So far, the coronavirus has claimed 16,002 deaths in Austria. There are 666 people in hospitals with the virus and 76 people in intensive care units because of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Which groups are most vaccine hesitant in Austria?

On April 3rd, only 502 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine were given in Austria; 26 were first doses, 77 were second doses, and 399 were third doses.

As a result, only 69 per cent of the total population has a valid vaccination certificate – more than 4,000 people had their certificates expired in the last 24 hours, 75.90 per cent have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 53.71 per cent have had their third dose.

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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.