: Austria’s Plan to Make COVID-19 Vaccines Compulsory Is Dividing Citizens — and Experts #WorldNEWS Grappling with Europe’s punishing fourth wave of COVID-19, Austria’s government took
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Austria’s Plan to Make COVID-19 Vaccines Compulsory Is Dividing Citizens — and Experts #WorldNEWS
Grappling with Europe’s punishing fourth wave of COVID-19, Austria’s government took bold steps to combat the spread of the disease on Friday — not merely sending the country back into lockdown for three weeks, but also announcing the first national COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the western world.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg says the mandate, due to enter into force on Feb. 1, is needed to boost a stagnant vaccination campaign. Just over 69% of eligible people have received at least one dose, languishing about ten percentage points behind other wealthy western European countries. Authorities blame that comparatively low vaccine coverage for the record-breaking COVID-19 caseload Austria is currently experiencing, with 14,000 cases reported Monday —nearly twice as many as it experienced at the peak of its then-record second wave in November 2020.
“There are too many among us who haven’t shown solidarity,” Schallenberg told local media Friday. “Raising the vaccination rate is the only way to break this vicious circle. ”
But the plan drew instant outrage. Some 40,000 people protested the governments’ new measures in Vienna on Saturday, joining a spate of marches across western European cities against recently reimposed COVID containment measures. Austrian demonstrators carried signs reading “no to vaccines” and “down with the fascist dictatorship. ” Many levelled comparisons to the history of Nazi experiments in Austria—long evoked by the country’s powerful anti-vaccine movement. Police said far right affiliated groups, which have played a key role in spreading anti-vaccine information, were prominent at the marches.
Against that backdrop, public health experts are dubious about the decision to make vaccines obligatory. Though a mandate may convince some Austrians who were hesitant to get vaccinated, they say it is unlikely to win over those with more deep-rooted opposition. Some worry that the move could backfire, further politicizing the issue.
“It deepens the chasm in our society,” says Thomas Czypionka, head of health economics and policy at the Vienna-based Institute for Advanced Studies, “There is a growing number of people opposing the government and policies against COVID-19, and this vaccine mandate may well serve as a strong push to more radicalization— especially with our history. ”
How will Austria’s vaccine mandate work — and will it be effective?
Under the government’s plan, authorities will send out invitations to vaccination appointments to the 2 million people who are not yet fully vaccinated, and after Feb.
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