Despite virulent opposition on the street, the Austrian Parliament approved, on Thursday January 20, the compulsory vaccination law for all adults, becoming the first country in the European Union to take such a measure to fight the epidemic of Covid-19. The bill, announced in November to boost a faltering immunization campaign, was approved by a broad sector of the political class (137 in favor, 33 against out of 183 seats). The measure will take effect on February 4.
“Vaccination is our society’s opportunity to achieve lasting and continued freedom, without being restricted by the virus,” Conservative Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters before the session opened. It is “an issue that is the subject of a very intense and passionate debate,” he acknowledged.
The goal, the government insists, is not to impose vaccination by force or multiply economic sanctions. These can range from €600 to €3,600, but will be waived if the offender is vaccinated within two weeks.
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Events every weekend
In addition to the Greens, coalition partners of the Conservatives, the leaders of the Social Democratic and Liberal parties have given their support. Only the extreme right opposes him, in the name of protecting individual freedoms.
The head of the FPÖ, fiercely anti-vaccine, lambasted during the debates “a project that paves the way for totalitarianism in Austria.” “We don’t have a majority today in Parliament, but we do have one outside,” insisted Herbert Kickl, vowing to defy the law.
Many Austrians are up in arms against the text and demonstrate almost every weekend by the tens of thousands. In this tense climate, the government fears overflows and announced this week the establishment of “protection perimeters” around health establishments, vaccination and test centers.
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72% of the population already vaccinated
This vote comes as Austria has never recorded so many positive cases, in the context of the spread of the Omicron variant. About 30,000 infections in twenty-four hours were registered on Wednesday in this country where it is customary to take the test before going to a concert, for example.
About 72% of the population of 8.9 million inhabitants have, at this stage, a complete vaccination schedule, a percentage lower than that of France or Spain. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Health, one and a half million adults still need to be convinced. It should be noted that a raffle has been called, with, at the end of the day, a reward of 500 euros for those vaccinated.
To give time to the recalcitrants who will all receive a citation, the control phase will not begin until mid-March. At a given moment, minors over the age of 14 are ultimately not subject to this measure.
Compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 is gaining ground in a growing number of countries for certain professions or population categories. But the taxation of the entire adult population remains unprecedented in the EU and very rare in the world.
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