Austrian Parliament Approves Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination for Adults

The Austrian Parliament on Jan. 20 approved to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for adults, becoming the first country in Europe to do so.

Members of the parliament voted 137 to 33 to approve the mandate, which will be introduced from Feb. 1.

After the initial “introductory phase,” those who have not been vaccinated can be fined of up to €3,600 ($4,072) from mid-March.

The mandate will apply to Austrian residents aged 18 and older, except for pregnant women, people with medical exemption, and those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months.

The government is also launching a lottery with €500 ($565) vouchers that can be used in shops, restaurants, and hotels as incentives for those who take the vaccine, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein called the measure a “big and, for the first time, also lasting step” in Austria’s effort against the pandemic.

“This is how we can manage to escape the cycle of opening and closing of lockdowns,” Mueckstein said at the parliament.

Far-right Freedom Party Leader Herbert Kickl opposed the measure, calling it “another blow to fundamental rights and freedoms.”

“It is sad that the Chinese social model is being introduced in a parliament to fight a Chinese virus. This opens the door to health communism!” Kickl said on Instagram.

Tens of thousands protesters gathered in regular weekend rallies against the mandatory vaccination since November when the measure was announced.

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, leader of the Social Democrats, said that the mandate was something “we all didn’t want” but it “has unfortunately become necessary to close this vaccination gap that still exists in Austria.”

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, 75.22% of the Austrian population is fully vaccinated.

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