The general obligation to vaccinate should actually end the corona pandemic for Austria. However, once it has come into force, it could soon be suspended again.
At first it was the only way out of the “spiral of lockdowns and openings”, it and the “ultima ratio” were unavoidable in order to increase the low vaccination rate from Vorarlberg to Vienna. In any case, it is constitutionally justified and can be argued, because more lenient means of combating the pandemic have been exhausted and the encroachment on fundamental rights is proportionate to the effects of the pandemic, said lawyers and experts.
The compulsory vaccination has been in force since February 3rd, now, not even two weeks later, it could at least be history again. Austria is not only the first EU country to introduce general corona vaccination. It could also be the first EU country to abolish it immediately without a single fine being issued.
Is vaccination compulsory again?
In Vienna on Wednesday, the government will meet those squads that hold the reins after Sebastian Kurz left as chancellor: the heads of countries. On the agenda: further easing, the question of whether tests will be subject to a fee in the future or should remain free of charge – and the future of the applicable vaccination requirement. Less than a week after the mandatory vaccination law passed the National Council, the federal states, above all Salzburg’s ÖVP governor Wilfried Haslauer, began to question the project.
Last week he saw the vaccination requirement as a measure to “prevent medical care from being overloaded” and urged an immediate “evaluation” of proportionality – before March 16, so that the first checks should take place, as required by law.
The vaccination law remains vague
From then on, the police should issue penalties to those who do not carry a valid vaccination certificate with them – for example during road traffic controls. The social-democratic governor of Carinthia, Peter Kaiser, also said that “there were no signs of overloading either in the intensive care or in the normal wards” – and advocated “rethinking the encroachment on fundamental rights”.
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In fact, the compulsory vaccination law provides for a regular evaluation of the measure. This concerns both the effectiveness of the available vaccines and the epidemiological necessity. The exact process of the evaluation remains vague: the law only stipulates that this task should be the responsibility of a commission based at the Federal Chancellery. Only: said commission does not yet exist.
The Minister of Health holds a compulsory vaccination celebration
It is just as unclear which experts should sit on it and “evaluate” as when the committee should be in place. A decision should be made here “as soon as possible”, at least “in a few weeks”, said the Green Minister of Health Wolfgang Mückstein, who, like ÖVP Chancellor Karl Nehammer, initially tried to emphasize the cross-shots from the federal states that the government wanted war stick to the vaccination schedule.
According to the Minister of Health, the compulsory vaccination instrument is now particularly important with regard to possible new virus variants in the coming autumn. Last weekend, however, the chancellor swerved – and swung to the line of the federal states: The vaccination requirement is a major intervention and it should be “proportionate”. It was the ÖVP country leaders who had called for compulsory vaccination.
Vaccination agreements in the “smoker’s chamber”
Brief review: In mid-November last year, the top government met with the provincial governors in a hotel on the Tyrolean Achensee, the number of infections had risen dramatically, and the Social Democratic Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig orchestrated the nightly meeting, reportedly in the hotel’s “smoking room”. Approval of the ÖVP country chief for a new lockdown.
Counter-condition, expressed by the powerful governor of Lower Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner: a general vaccination requirement, valid from February. The background to the surprising wish of the ÖVP – compulsory vaccination had not only been strictly ruled out by the Chancellor Party since the beginning of the pandemic – was probably more planning security for the tourism industry, trade and gastronomy, which is influential in the conservative Chancellor Party.
TV should have a vaccination fleet
At that time, the one who now has to protect the vaccination requirement from its actual inventors was outside of the picture – Minister of Health Wolfgang Mückstein. The coalition parties then tried to get the support of the project from the opposition parties: the leader of the Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, in particular, had her hands full trying to bring her own parliamentary group into line. Above all, the Chamber of Labor and the trade unions were and are still skeptical to negative about the vaccination requirement.
What was particularly important to the comrades was an incentive system to accompany compulsory vaccination, for example through a significant vaccination bonus for everyone who was vaccinated three times. This was out of the question for the ÖVP, and so a compromise was reached on support for those communities that significantly increase their vaccination rates, as well as a “vaccination fleet”. This should be public ORF to be organized – but the latter saw himself unable to do so.
Austrian creates a letter from the government
The “vaccination fleet” was off the table. This was a “wish of the SPÖ,” claimed Chancellor Nehammer, only to admit days later and after the programmed outrage of the Social Democrats that it was a compromise. Nevertheless, Chancellor Nehammer now has the funds of over one billion euros that were actually made available for the “incentive system”. The money will now benefit those who would have done outstanding work during the pandemic: police officers, soldiers and health professionals.
In the case of the Social Democrats, at least the willingness to talk is now coming to an end. The intention is to stay out of the chaos caused by the government. However, they want to continue to adhere to the obligation to vaccinate. Whatever decision is made on Wednesday: On Monday, a letter fluttered into the mailboxes of numerous Austrian households. In it you can read: information about compulsory vaccination. And: “Anyone who does not comply with the obligation to vaccinate must expect administrative penalties in the future (…) Best regards, your federal government”.