The Austrian government has presented a bill on mandatory vaccination against COVID-19
Today, the Austrian government presented at a press conference broadcast on television, the bill on mandatory vaccination against COVID-19, which will enter into force on 1 February.
Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer justified the government's decision by the need for decisive action to tackle the pandemic, support for the measure by the majority of the population, and the desire to restore the freedom of movement and action of people protected from vaccines. Mandatory vaccination is being introduced to protect the health of society as a whole, Nehamer added.
After the introductory phase starting on February 1, during which the population will be given the opportunity to be vaccinated, the inspections will start on March 15 and the unvaccinated will be punished – with high fines. In the second phase, the unvaccinated will receive a reminder letter that they need to get vaccinated. The third phase includes a letter with a specific hour for vaccination and if it is not followed the fines provided by law will be imposed. Nehammer expressed hope that the third phase could not be reached at all if the still unvaccinated protect themselves against the vaccine pandemic, thus protecting society as a whole.
The Minister of Health, Wolfgang Mückstein, drew attention to the protective effect of the vaccine and the conviction that solidarity is needed in the name of a common future. According to experts, Omicron is not the last variant, new options are expected, but the vaccine is a sure shield against severe forms of the disease. It is now necessary to lay the foundations for a more carefree autumn of 2022, Nehammer stressed.
Vaccination against covid is mandatory for all persons over 18 years of age. An exception is made for pregnant women, people with contraindicated diseases, and those who became ill within 180 days after having COVID-19. In the second phase, controls will be carried out by police officers. Unvaccinated people will be fined up to 600 euros. In the third phase, the control will be carried out through an electronic vaccination register.
Mandatory vaccination is the ultima ratio, the last resort, the central measure in the fight against the pandemic, said Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler. She stressed that the bill is balanced, many amendments have been made by experts. The Minister pointed out that compulsory vaccination does not violate basic human rights, it is an effective means of protecting society, and it protects against severe forms of the disease.
The law provides for a maximum of four fines for unvaccinated persons per year - one per quarter. If the fined person files a complaint in court, the fine can be increased to 3,600 euros. There are no penalties for imprisonment. Some provisions of the law can be repealed if there are appropriate preconditions, for example, if the next variant is lighter than Omicron, if the pandemic subsides or if the opinion of experts is that the law has already lost its meaning.
The bill will be considered by the parliamentary health committee on Monday and is scheduled to be submitted to parliament on Thursday. A simple majority is enough to pass the law, for which the ruling Austrian People's Party and the Green Party have both the necessary votes in both the National Council - the lower house and the Federal Council - the upper house of parliament.
The government's efforts are to gain even wider support by involving the Austrian Social Democratic Party and the NEOS party. The Austrian Freedom Party has spoken out against the bill on compulsory immunization.
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