One year on: Covid-19 vaccination rate in Austria hits 70 percent

The number of fully vaccinated people in Austria has reached 70 percent, one year since the first Covid-19 vaccine was administered.

Medical staff wait to vaccinate people against Covid-19 in Vienna, Austria on November 15, 2021. Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Demand for vaccines is on the rise again in Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

In the past week, Austria has hit a Covid-19 vaccination milestone – 70 percent of the total population has now received two doses of the vaccine.

According to figures from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), this means 74.02 percent of the eligible population (aged five and above for whom Covid vaccinations are approved) is now protected.

And, as of December 27th 2021, 77.63 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose, so the number of fully vaccinated people is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

READ MORE: Where to find the latest Covid-19 information for your region of Austria

Currently, Burgenland is the most heavily vaccinated federal state at 75.6 percent, and Upper Austria is the least vaccinated state at 66 percent.

Third doses, or booster shots, are now available for those that have already received two doses of the vaccine (a minimum of three months prior).

A year of Covid-19 vaccinations in Austria

The vaccination roll out started in Austria on December 27th 2020, with the first doses administered to residents and staff in retirement and nursing homes.

In early 2021, health workers and people in vulnerable categories were called up for vaccination, before it was made available to the general public in April.

FOR MEMBERS: What will happen with the pandemic in Austria in 2022?

At the time of the announcement of the first vaccinations last year, then-Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) described the step as a “turnaround in the fight against the pandemic”.

However, a year ago the Austrian federal government was focused on educating the population about the benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19, as opposed to making vaccination mandatory.

This approach has since changed due to plateauing vaccination figures and high Covid-19 case numbers in recent months, and the government is now planning to introduce a mandatory vaccination measure (Impfpflicht) in 2022.

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Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Swiss government will not make second Covid boosters available until autumn, saying those who are currently fully vaccinated face a low risk of contracting the virus.

Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday that second Covid booster shots for general population will be available in the fall, “when the risk for individuals and the burden on the healthcare system will be greatest”.

While Switzerland had a widespread booster shot campaign against Covid, the government has been reluctant to approve second boosters other than for those in vulnerable categories. 

Right now, those with a weakened immune system and people over the age of 80 are the only ones eligible. 

People not in those risk groups who want a second booster will need to pay out of pocket for the jab. 

This may be people who feel they are in a risk group but are not included in the government’s list, or those who need a booster for travelling abroad. 

People who are travelling to countries where proof of up-to-date immunisation is required but whose Covid certificates are no longer valid, can receive the fourth dose but upon request have to pay for the shot.

Previously, all Covid boosters have been free for Swiss citizens and residents, with the government electing to cover the costs. 

How much will a Covid booster for travel cost? 

While the federal government previously covered the costs of the vaccines, it is now up to individual vaccination centres to set a price for a second booster. 

A spokesperson from the FOPH told The Local on Wednesday that the cost tends to be around CHF60 across much of the country. 

Please keep in mind that this cost only relates to second booster shots for those not in vulnerable categories. For those wanting their first booster – or indeed their first or second shot of the vaccine – the government will continue to cover the costs.