Austria suspends mandatory vaccine law

10 Mar 2022

Austria has made the decision to suspend its compulsory Covid vaccine mandate for the over-18s, just a month after the legislation came into effect.

The country was the first in the European Union to adopt the measure, but the government has stated it deems the move disproportionate to the Omicron variant threat, BBC reports.

The law took effect last month and threatened fines of as much as €3,600 from the middle of this month for people who failed to comply. Yet minister Karoline Edtstadler said the law’s “encroachment of fundamental rights” could no longer be warranted by the danger presented.

“After consultations with the health minister, we have decided that we will of course follow what the [expert] commission has said,” Edtstadler said following a cabinet meeting. “We see no need to actually implement this compulsory vaccination due to the [Omicron] variant that we are predominantly experiencing here.”

Although close to 48,000 new cases have been announced in the country, higher than any time during the pandemic, the variant is less severe and up to now hospitals have coped with the rising infection numbers.

Calls increased for the law to be reviewed, particularly as Austria eased nearly all Covid restrictions over the past few weeks, The Guardian reports.

The mandate was initially introduced in part because of the country’s comparatively low vaccination rate. A total of 70% of the 8.9 million population are double-jabbed, whilst 54% have had a third vaccine.

However, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch announced the decision would be reviewed again in three months and may be reintroduced should a new variant come to light.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly three million Covid cases have been registered in Austria, with over 15,000 fatalities.