Austria’s Lower Parliament Votes to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines for All Adults

If the measure passes the upper house, Austria would be the first EU nation to impose such a mandate
By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.
January 21, 2022Updated: January 21, 2022

Austria edged closer to implementing a compulsory COVID-19 vaccination mandate for most adults on Thursday after parliament’s lower house voted in favor of the proposal.

A majority of MPs backed the bill by 137 votes to 33, according to local reports. It is now expected to pass parliament’s upper house before being signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen.

If passed, it would mean that adults age 18 and over in the country would need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 starting in February. However, pregnant women, those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and individuals who recovered from the virus in the past six months, would be exempt.

The move would make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a mandate and comes despite large-scale demonstrations across the country in recent months as tens of thousands of angry citizens continue to protest against such measures.

Every Austrian household will be notified about the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, which is free, via direct mail, according to a government statement. Following an introductory phase which ends on March 15, unvaccinated Austrians will receive reminders every six months that they need to get vaccinated.

Officials will also check the vaccination status of Austrians via traffic stops and other methods, and those who fail to present proof of vaccination could be slapped with a 600 euros ($685) fine.

If full criminal proceedings are opened, those who refuse to get the shots will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,084), although the financial circumstances of each individual are taken into account, the government said. Fines will be dropped if proof of vaccination or proof of an exceptional reason is submitted to officials within two weeks of being issued.

‘Introduction of Health Communism’

Lawmakers say the vaccine mandate is necessary to protect the public health of Austria, where roughly 74 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein on Thursday praised the decision by the lower parliament, writing on Twitter, “With the present draft law, we have a large—and above all, for the first time a particularly sustainable—lever in our hands in the fight against the pandemic.”

“The obligation to vaccinate will help us above all in the fight against upcoming virus variants. This way we can finally escape from this cycle of opening and closing, waves and lockdowns,” Mueckstein said, adding that he was proud of the draft law because “the vaccination requirement is based on a really broad foundation.”

But the leader of the Freedom Party of Austria Herbert Kickl, who has rallied against the law, said he was “appalled, stunned, shaken and shocked” by its passing in the lower house, calling the measure an “assassination attempt on the population” and the “introduction of health communism.”

In an effort to get more people vaccinated, Austria’s conservative-led government also announced a so-called “vaccine lottery” which will offer incentives and reward packages to people who get the shots.

Officials said approximately 1.4 billion euros ($1.59 billion) will be invested in the efforts to get people vaccinated, of which 1 billion euros will go towards the national lottery, beginning March 15. The remaining 400 million euros will be directed to towns across the country that successfully reach a certain high vaccination rate.

So far, Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, and Micronesia are the only countries in the world to have passed vaccine mandates.