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VACCINE

Can foreigners and cross-border workers get vaccinated against coronavirus in Austria?

Foreigners - including cross-border workers - can get vaccinated in Austria under certain circumstances. Here’s what you need to know.

Can foreigners get vaccinated in Austria?
Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP / POOL

Austria’s vaccination drive, which began in December, is expected to kick into gear in April. 

As vaccinations become available to the general public, one question we have been asked regularly is what kind of documentation you need to get vaccinated in Austria. 

Here is the form you need to get vaccinated in Austria

More specifically, people have asked us whether you need to be an Austrian citizen to get vaccinated – and whether people who cross the border to work in Austria are also entitled to the vaccine. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

E-card holders entitled to the vaccine

As with most medical procedures in Austria, the most important document is the e-card. 

The Austrian e-card is an electronic chip card linked to the electronic administration system of Austria’s social insurance system, which includes health, accident, pension and unemployment insurance.

Anyone who wants to get vaccinated in Austria will need to present their e-card. 

What is Austria’s e-card? Everything you need to know

Foreigners who are resident in Austria will have an e-card, as will most cross-border workers. 

This means that foreigners who live abroad and who do not have Austrian citizenship are unable to access the vaccine in Austria. 

Cross-border workers who do not have health insurance in Austria will need to access the vaccine in their country of residence. 

What other documents do I have to present? 

In addition to your e-card, you need to bring your vaccination certificate and your allergy passport if you have these documents. 

If you do not, this will not prevent the vaccination. 

More information is available at the following official link. 

But what if I don’t have an e-card?

According to official government information, you need to present your e-card when you get vaccinated in order to receive the jab.

More information is available at the following official link. 

While this is unlikely to cause problems for the vast majority of Austrians and Austrian residents who have e-cards, some people such as foreign students and temporary workers do not have an e-card.

According to the Vienna Bar Association (RAK), they will not be prevented from getting the vaccine, provided they have an Austrian social security/insurance number.

As the RAK noted in a specific briefing in January 2021:

“Persons who have a national insurance number are registered in the Central Patient Index (Zentralen Patientenindex/ZPI) – even without a current e-card.”

“This also applies to persons who were once insured or co-insured in Austria. Therefore, they can be administered in the e-vaccination passport. Persons who do not appear in the ZPI receive an error message during identification. They can then only be documented on paper.”

Has Austria’s vaccination scheme impacted foreigners? 

From not providing information in languages other than German to failing to tackle a slew of conspiracy theories and incorrect information on social media, Austrian authorities’ vaccination strategy is failing the country’s sizeable foreign population. 

READ MORE: Is Austria’s vaccination strategy failing foreigners?

Judith Kohlenberger from the Institute for Social Policy at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration told Wien Heute the country has adopted a “white, classically Austrian vaccination campaign”. 

Kohlenberger points out that the Österreich impft (Austria vaccinates) campaign features nobody obviously of a migrant background – unlike of course the vast majority of hospitals and medical centres where people who have contracted coronavirus are being cared for. 

“We just have to go to any hospital in Vienna, where the majority of nurses have a migration background. That would be good (to gather) testimonials to say, yes, we will be vaccinated,” she said. 

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COVID-19

Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Austrians expressed shock and anger this week over the suicide of doctor who had been the target of a torrent of abuse and threats from anti-vaccination protesters.

Austria in shock over doctor's suicide following anti-vax abuse

The bells of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral rang out in memory of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr on Monday, and hundreds of people held a candle vigil outside, after the 36-year-old doctor was found dead at her practice on July 29.

She had long been the target of death threats because of her criticism of the widespread anti-lockdown protests of 2021.

An autopsy later confirmed that Kellermayr had taken her own life.

Austria has found itself deeply polarised over coronavirus restrictions and in particular a government policy –subsequently dropped — of making vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory.

Kellermayr — whose practice was in the region of Upper Austria where immunisation rates are particularly low — had frequently complained of the menace.

“For more than seven months, we have been receiving… death threats from those opposed to coronavirus measures and vaccinations,” she wrote at the time, sharing a message from one internet user who said they would pose as a patient in order to attack her and her staff.

She described how she had “invested more than 100,000 euros” ($102,000) in measures to ensure her patients’ safety and was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Then, at the end of June, Kellermayr announced on her professional website that she would not be seeing patients until further notice.

Daniel Landau, who organised a memorial vigil for her in Vienna, said that Kellermayr had become a virtual recluse for several weeks. “She didn’t dare to leave” her office, Landau told AFP.

Fanning the aggression

On Saturday, the head of Austria’s doctors’ association, Johannes Steinhart, said that while aggressive behaviour towards medical staff was not new, it had been “fired up and noticeably aggravated” by the debate over Covid-19 and vaccines.

The police, who had previously suggested Kellermayr was exploiting the situation for attention, insist they did everything to protect her. The local prosecutor’s office also rejected suggestions it could have done more.

“As soon as we received the police report (identifying one of the suspects), we sent it over to the relevant authorities in Germany,” spokesman Christoph Weber said.

On Friday, prosecutors in the neighbouring German state of Bavaria said a 59-year-old suspect was being investigated by a specialist hate speech unit.

At the beginning of the week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited the small town of Seewalchen where Kellermayr lived to lay flowers in her memory.

After news of her death broke, he had appealed to Austrians to “put an end to intimidation and fear”.

‘They’re gagging us’

But on some Telegram groups, the hateful messages continue.

“Some people are celebrating her death; others believe the vaccine killed her,” said Ingrid Brodnig, a journalist and author who investigates online disinformation.

“Stricts laws exist” already against online hate, but not enough is done to implement them, Brodnig said.

One government minister has floated the idea of a separate prosecutor’s office to target such cases. Doctors and researchers have also been targeted elsewhere.

French infectious disease specialist, Karine Lacombe, described how she had been vilified for her work as part of a collective of doctors combatting coronavirus-related disinformation.

She, too, complained that the response from the authorities in the face of threats was not robust enough, and has scaled down her public appearances this year.

“You end up thinking that the risk isn’t worth it,” she told AFP. “In that sense (the aggressors) have won, they are gagging us,” she said.

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