Austria has made COVID-19 vaccines compulsory for everyone 18 and older, as the new mandate comes into effect today. People who refuse vaccination and have no medical exemption will face large fines of up to €3,600 ($4,056).
The approach has been described as a drastic but necessary measure to increase the number of vaccinated people in the country, which is lagging behind compared to other European countries. At the moment, 74 percent of people have received at least one dose, while in the Netherlands it's 76.9 percent, France it's 79.8 percent, Italy it's 83.2 percent, and Spain it's 86.3 percent.
The vaccine requirement will be implemented in a three-phase setup. Initially, people will have from now until March 15 to go and get vaccinated. Next, there will be some leeway between March 15 and the first vaccination date, but checks will be carried out and non-compliance reported to the local authorities. If people are still unvaccinated after that they will be fined.
Exemptions include those under 18, pregnant people, and those for whom the vaccine would endanger their lives or health for medical reasons.
“This is how we can manage to escape the cycle of opening and closing, of lockdowns. That is why this law is so urgently needed right now,” Wolfgang Mueckstein, the Austrian health minister, said in parliament
The law will remain until January 2024 but the government has made it clear that it will be willing to remove it earlier if the outlook of the pandemic improves. In Italy, people over the age of 50 are obligated to take the vaccine. Other European countries are considering following suit.
[H/T: The Independent]