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COVID-19 VACCINES

How does Austria’s vaccine mandate compare to other countries?

Austria on Thursday became the first EU country to issue a vaccine mandate to all adults, but other countries in the bloc are also requiring the jab for certain age groups or professions, and further afield general mandates have been introduced.

Vaccine passes Ecuador
Vaccine passes are checked in Ecuador, one of few other countries to make Covid vaccination mandatory for all adults. Photo: Cristina Vega Rhor/AFP

Within Europe, Austria is an outlier, although a majority of EU countries use a vaccine pass or health pass to restrict the non-vaccinated from entry into venues such as restaurants, concerts and even shops.

These schemes have different names across Europe, but vary between health passes which allow holders to show a negative test result to gain entry and vaccine passes for which only vaccination proof (and in some cases proof of recent recovery from the virus) is valid.

Vaccine passes

In Italy, a vaccine pass is required to access hotels, restaurants, gyms and even public transport, with no option to take a test instead. From Monday January 24th France will require proof of vaccination or recovery for long-distance travel and access to restaurants, cafes, museums, cinemas and sports venues. Switzerland requires vaccine passes for indoor events, restaurants and cultural venues.

Similar passes are used in other countries outside Europe too, for example in Israel, Morocco, South Africa and several parts of Brazil.

Mandates by profession

Vaccine mandates for members of some professions exist or are planned in a few European countries, with Italy, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and the UK requiring healthcare workers to get the jab, and some of those countries extending the mandate to other professions too. 

In Austria’s neighbour Hungary, all public sector workers are covered by a vaccine mandate and private companies have the option to require the vaccine. Latvia requires MPs to get the vaccine, and private employers can also dismiss workers who refuse to get vaccinated. And Poland is expected to pass a mandate for healthcare workers, teachers and the police.

The Czech Republic scrapped its own plans to require the jab for healthcare workers, with the government saying it did not want to exacerbate divisions.

Mandates by age

Some other countries have made Covid-19 vaccination compulsory only for certain age groups, focusing on the elderly who are more vulnerable to serious illness from the virus.

That includes Italy, which in January made the vaccine compulsory for over-50s and the penalty is a €100 fine, described by the ministry as a “one-off”. It was already compulsory for several professions including healthcare staff, police, teachers and emergency services workers.

Greece has set the age limit for compulsory jabs higher at 60, and since January has begun fining those in this age group who are unvaccinated, with €100 fines that can be issued monthly (adding up to a potential €12,000 per year). The government has also said it is considering extending the mandate to all over-50s.

That makes the fines in these countries significantly lower than those in Austria, where people who refuse to get the vaccine face fines of €600 which can be issued up to four times a year to a total of €24,000, but which could rise to €3,600 at a time if they refuse to pay the initial fine. The government has said people’s personal financial situation will be taken into account in setting the fine, and no fines will be issued until mid-March.

The Czech Republic had also planned to require vaccinations by law for over-60s, but this was overturned in January.

As with vaccine passes, vaccine mandates limited by age or profession are also in force in several countries outside Europe, though mandates linked to occupation are significantly more widespread than those linked to age, usually focusing on healthcare workers and state employees.

General mandates

Austria is unique within the EU in making the vaccine mandatory for all adults, though the Vatican City has mandated the jab for all its employees and visitors to Vatican museums.

And Austria may soon be joined by Germany, with politicians set to vote on making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory in March. It is possible that if passed, the bill may be modified to apply only to older residents.

Further afield, a small number of countries have brought in general vaccine mandates for the whole adult population, like Austria.

Those include Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, French territory New Caledonia and Micronesia.

Note: This is not a comprehensive list, but an overview of the situation. All information was correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

The commission also recommends three doses of the vaccine for people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease.

Austria recommends Covid booster shot for children aged five and over

Austria’s National Vaccination Board has recommended that children from the age of five get a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, the “booster” dose.

“This third vaccination should take place at the latest at the beginning of the school year ahead of the expected next waves of infection in autumn”, the board said in a press statement.

The third dose is recommended six months after the second shot, the commission added.

Additionally, the updated recommendation given by the government body also clarified that a total of three vaccinations are needed for “the best possible and long-term protection”, even among people who have already been infected with Covid-19.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

The commission stated that “from an immunological point of view, these vaccinations are to be regarded as a basic vaccination”. This means that, in the future, the Covi-19 vaccination schedule will consider three doses of an approved vaccine.

According to the board statement, an infection with the coronavirus would only lead to a postponement of the vaccinations but shouldn’t replace any dose.

Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch reinforced the need for vaccination in the country, which currently has fewer than 70 per cent of its population with two doses of the vaccine up to date.

“The corona vaccination has saved the lives of countless people and continues to do so. The ongoing adaptation of recommendations ensures that new scientific findings are constantly incorporated”, Rauch said in a press statement.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

The new recommendation can be found on Austria’s Health Ministry website. However, the ministry hasn’t specified how the recommendation would affect the Covid-19 passes or the “green pass” validity, especially those held by people who have recovered from the disease.

Covid numbers

Austria this Monday reported 4,111 new coronavirus infections, with 89,861 PCR tests taken in 24 hours. According to the Health Ministry, there are currently 1,492 people hospitalised with the virus (26 fewer than the day before), and 124 people are in intensive care units with Covid.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,054 people have died from the Covid-19.

The alpine country has currently 68.4 per cent of its population with a valid vaccination certificate, and 54.5 per cent of its population has received the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 16th

Austria has recently removed almost all of its coronavirus restrictions, including the need to show a valid vaccination certificate to enter bars and restaurants. The country also dropped its FFP2 mask mandate in all indoor areas except for “essential” places such as public transport, health areas, and supermarkets.

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