Austria has suspended its controversial Covid vaccine mandate. It was not proportionate in view of the currently prevalent Omikron variant of the coronavirus, said Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler. With the decision, the government follows the recommendation of a so-called expert commission.
In principle, the experts consider compulsory vaccination to be a sensible instrument “to avoid overloading the health care system.” However, since infection with the Omikron variant is more likely than with other virus variants to lead only to mild courses of disease, an immediate introduction is “not reasonable.”
(Austrian news anchor collapses in front of the cameras. Many in the country suspect because of adverse events due to Covid vaccination)
In general, a later introduction of mandatory vaccination would be preferable to an immediate one, the “experts” added. The reason is that the timing of vaccination is important: if vaccination is given too early, a significant part of the newly acquired immunity will fizzle out.
DECISION TO BE REVIEWED IN THREE MONTHS
It cannot be ruled out that a new variant will burden the health care system in the fall, said Health Minister Johannes Rauch.
In three months, therefore, the suspension of compulsory vaccination should be reviewed. “Just as the virus is very mobile, we have to be flexible and adaptable,” said Constitutional Minister Edtstadler.
Austria was the first EU country to enact a general Covid vaccination mandate for all adults in early February – officially the main reason for this was the comparatively low vaccination rate.
Massive protests, which in part generated civil war-like confrontations, have led to a rethinking among those responsible.
However, the control of the mandatory vaccination and the imposition of fines was not supposed to start until mid-March, which has now lapsed.
LITTLE PRESSURE FROM THE THREAT OF COMPULSORY VACCINATION
It had also been hoped that the decision to introduce compulsory vaccination alone would increase the vaccination rate. However, this effect has largely failed to materialize.
Since the beginning of February, only about 26,000 previously unvaccinated people in the country with a population of almost nine million have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
In Germany, too, a general vaccination requirement to contain the covid pandemic has been under discussion for some time.
However, the vote on this in the Bundestag is not scheduled until early April.
The first reading of the group motions on mandatory vaccination is scheduled for March 17.
INCIDENCE AT RECORD HIGH
There are now more new infections in Austria than ever before. Authorities reported that 47,795 new cases were registered within one day.
Since Saturday, only face masks have been mandatory in parts of Austria’s trades. In Vienna, the rules are a bit stricter in some places.
Many people celebrated especially in the night gastronomy, which was allowed to reopen after two years. The situation in hospitals – especially in intensive care units – currently remains stable.