The Austrian government announced last Thursday, the definitive end of its compulsory vaccination policy against Covid-19, which it had already suspended in March, just one month after its implementation. “From now on you have to live with Covid-19, so we are going to put in place a series of measures, which means the end of compulsory vaccination”, said the Minister of Health, Johannes Rauch, at a press conference in Vienna.
The strategy “had been launched in a different context”, with hospitals overwhelmed, he explained. “But the omicron variant altered the rules” of the game, added the minister (environmentalist). “Even those who had agreed to be vaccinated are now reluctant to be given a new dose”.
The expert committee had not considered the law “necessary from either a medical or a constitutional point of view” and it created “a deep division in Austrian society”, Rauch said.
The text entered into force on February 5th and was an unprecedented measure in the European Union (EU). However, it aroused strong opposition in the country of 9 million people. The rule applied to all residents over the age of 18, except pregnant women and those who had been infected with the virus in the previous 180 days. It also provided exceptions for medical reasons.
The controls were due to start in mid-March, with penalties of between €600 and €3,600. But, in the end, the executive decided to suspend its application, finding that the omicron variant was less dangerous. “Currently, there are many arguments to say that this violation of fundamental rights is not justified”, Karoline Edstadler, in charge of the Constitution, declared at the time.
About 62% of the Austrian population has a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate, a lower rate than many Western European countries. The country has recorded more than 18,700 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.