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Will Austria really be able to vaccinate everyone who wants it by the end of June?

Earlier in 2021, Austria promised everyone who wanted a vaccine could get one by the start of July. With the deadline looming, will the goal be met?

A woman recieves a vaccine. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
More people want to be vaccinated as the campaign progresses, federal states in Austria report. Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP))

At the beginning of April, Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) assured that all Austrians willing to vaccinate could receive their first vaccination by the end of June. 

According to research from the Austrian Press Agency (APA), the only states in Austria where this promise will definitely be kept will be in Lower Austria and Salzburg. 

READ MORE: Can Austria stick to its every adult vaccinated in 100 days target?

Although more than five million vaccine doses have now been given in Austria, more than half of the population eligible to be vaccinated has not had a first jab. 

Kurz said in April he assumed only two thirds of Austrians aged over 16 (7.5 million people), would register to receive a vaccine, leaving him with the target of vaccinating five million people before the end of July. 

Currently around 3.6 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

 

Die Impfung ist unser Ausweg aus der Pandemie & mit ihr kommen wir der Normalität Schritt für Schritt näher!

Posted by Sebastian Kurz on Thursday, April 8, 2021

Vaccine hesitancy has been decreasing in Austria according to APA research with federal states, meaning demand is still high as the rollout continues. 

Many second vaccination doses are due

In addition, the pace of first vaccinations is unlikely to significantly increase, as many second vaccinations are now due, the broadcaster ORF reports.

Last week, the pace of first vaccinations slowed to 35,000 per week, rather than 40,000 to 50,000 per week as seen earlier in May.

However, the number of vaccine dose deliveries should increase in June. In May, 500,000 vaccine doses per week were delivered to Austria, in June it should be up to 700,000 per week.

Lower Austria 

In Lower Austria, State Health Councillor Ulrike Königsberger-Ludwig told APA all people who have registered for the coronavirus vaccination will receive their first injection by the end of June. Since May 10th all age groups from 16 upwards have been able to register for a vaccine. 

Some children aged twelve could be vaccinated as early as June in Lower Austria, especially if they belong to a risk group, according to ORF

Salzburg

In Salzburg, all those who registered for a coronavirus vaccination by May 26th should have received the first jab by the end of June. Those who missed out on this deadline will be eligible from July, health officer LH-Deputy Christian Stoeckl told APA.

Since June 1st, all Salzburg residents aged twelve and over have been able to register for the vaccination, and vaccination of 12 to 20-year-olds is planned over the summer. 

Vienna

A spokesman for the Vienna City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker (SPÖ) told APA that he could not promise everyone who wanted to be vaccinated in Vienna would be able to, as new entries were constantly made in the city’s reservation platform. 

Vienna, which has the lowest vaccination rate of any federal state, plans to have vaccinated up to 60 percent of the population by the end of June. By mid-July – depending on the availability of the vaccine – 70 percent is expected and up to  80 percent in August, including children aged 12 and up.

Priority groups will continue to be vaccinated for the time being with no release of appointments for all groups planned. 

Upper Austria 

In Upper Austria, vaccinations have been open to everyone since May 29th, and there are no longer any priorities. It is currently possible to book a vaccination appointment until the week of July 19th-25th.

Health Councillor Christine Haberlander (ÖVP) said if Upper Austria were given more vaccines the state could administer up to 180,000 vaccinations per week.

Vorarlberg 

In Vorarlberg the vaccination prioritisation based on age, risk or occupational group was lifted three weeks ago. Vorarlberg says it will send all those who have registered on the platform an invitation for a vaccination appointment by the end of June.

Styria 

In Styria all people who registered with the vaccine portal before May 25th will receive an appointment before July 7th.

Any leftover doses will be given to people who have registered with the vaccine service since May 25th onwards. Appointments can only be given out once vaccines are in stock in sufficient quantities, according to the federal state. 

Burgenland

Burgenland’s Coronavirus coordination team say it will “probably not” work out that all those willing to vaccinate have received the first vaccination by the end of June as they do not think they will receive enough vaccine doses in time.

However, the team assumes everyone who is currently registered can be vaccinated by mid-July. Appointments will be given out shortly before the vaccines become available. 

Carinthia 

In Carinthia, new people are registering regularly on the vaccine portal and willingness to vaccinate is increasing to around 60 percent of the population, according to spokesman Gerd Kurath. 

He added that the waiting list is stuck at around 50,000 people due to these factors, with more wanting to be vaccinated than vaccines available.

Appointments will be planned from week to week according to age categories. In addition, many second vaccinations are now due so “unfortunately”  first vaccinations may have to wait, he said.

Tyrol 

Tyrol was unable to tell the APA  when all those willing to be vaccinated would receive their first dose. Plans in this federal state are made “from week to week”. Since Friday, May 28th, vaccination appointments will start for people in all age categories from 16 to 50-years-old. However, older people will still be prioritised. 

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TOURISM

EXPLAINED: Will Austria ban horse-drawn carriages?

Vienna's Fiaker - the horse-drawn carriages seen across the city's streets for centuries - are popular with tourists, but animal rights advocates say the practice is cruel, particularly as temperatures rise.

EXPLAINED: Will Austria ban horse-drawn carriages?

The image of two horses carrying a carriage full of tourists mesmerised by beautiful Austrian sights is quite a common one, particularly in Vienna.

The Fiaker, which is the Austrian name (borrowed from French) for the set of two horses, plus a carriage and coachman, are quite popular and represent an important part of Viennese history.

The first license for a Fiaker was granted in the capital around 1700. They rose in popularity before the advent of cars in the 1900s.

“They are just as much a part of Vienna as St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Giant Ferris Wheel: the fiakers”, according to the Vienna Tourist Board.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Now, though, the symbol for the capital has become the target of controversy. For years, animal rights groups have protested against the overworking of the animals, the stressful conditions for the horses on busy Viennese roads and the extreme heat they face in summer. 

What are the main issues raised?

For years now, several animal rights groups have protested against exploiting the animals for touristic purposes.

By Vienna regulations, the horses need to be out of the streets once temperatures reach 35C. Many groups ask for the limit to be at least 30C instead.

Additionally, the temperature base is measured at the stables, in the mostly shaded areas from where the animals leave every morning to work in Vienna’s first district, where the blazing sun and scorching pavements could make temperatures higher by several degrees.

READ ALSO: Why Vienna is a haven for wild animals – and where you can find them

Another issue raised by groups is that the fiaker no longer fits in a busy 21st-century capital – with its busy roads and loud cars. They claim that walking among the many vehicles and tourists of the first district is unnecessarily stressful for the horses.

A traditional Fiaker in the Viennese first district. (photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

What do the fiaker associations say?

Many representatives of the organisations reiterate that the animals are well-cared for and used to the heat.

A spokeswoman for the carriage companies asks for a round table with politicians as debates heat up, ORF reported. The veterinarian Isabella Copar, who works for two Fiaker farms, says there is no basis for the 30C regulation.

“I don’t understand that politicians make a judgment on animal welfare, even though they have no idea about the animals”, she told the broadcaster.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

Copar mentions a 2008 study by the Veterinary school of the University of Vienna saying that after nearly 400 measurements on the animals, not a single case of “heat stress” was found.

As for the infamous cases when horses have collapsed in the streets of Vienna during particularly hot days, she states that the collapses are usually due to a horse disease.

It was never possible to establish a connection with the heat. “If this happens in the stable, no one is interested,” the veterinarian said.

What is next?

The latest news in the controversy is a major one. The Health Minister, who is also Animal Protection Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), has stated he would “welcome” a debate about a Fiaker ban.

“You should think about it, really for animal welfare reasons, whether you should expose a horse to this stress.

According to the minister, there is a question also as to whether the use of the carriages fits in the context of a large city at all. “I think that’s a bit outdated”, he said.

READ ALSO: Austria bans ‘senseless’ killing of chicks with new animal welfare rules

There is a particular tug of war between the City and the Federal Government regarding whose responsibility it is to act on a possible ban or even tighten the rules.

Both authorities are set to talk about the issue in June. They are set to also speak with the Fiaker associations.

Vienna is unlikely to see a total ban as early as that. Still, a 30C temperature limit after which the horses would need to be sent back to stables could be heading to the capital.

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