A new law has come into force in Austria, making it compulsory for everyone over the age of 18 to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The measure, implemented from Saturday, means Austria is the first country in Europe to mandate inoculation against Covid-19 for all adults.
While several countries have mandated the vaccine for medical staff, care workers, or people over a certain age, Austria is first in the EU to broaden the measure to cover the entire adult population.
Despite the measures coming into force, authorities will not start checking citizens for their vaccination status until mid-March. Fines range from €600 to €3,600 for those who refuse to get vaccinated. Medical exemptions apply; pregnant women are also excluded from the measure.
The mandate expires in January 2024, but it could end earlier if the pandemic allows.
Austria’s conservative chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, announced the measure in November as Covid-19 spiked again, putting hospitals under further pressure.
At the time of the announcement, Austria had one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, with only 65% inoculated against the deadly virus according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of February 2, over 75% of Austrians are now fully vaccinated.
The measure had been delayed by the legislative procedure. It was due to come into force on Tuesday, but only cleared its last parliamentary hurdle on Thursday and signed into law by Van der Bellen on Friday.