The lower house of the Austrian parliament voted on Thursday overwhelmingly in favor of introducing mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for all adults from February.
The regulation makes an exception for pregnant women and all those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. In addition, people who have recovered from Covid-19 will be exempt from the obligation for 180 days.
The law must now be approved by the upper house (Länderkammer), but this is only a formality.
Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein defended the vaccination obligation in the parliamentary debate as a measure of solidarity and social cohesion.
“The more people get vaccinated, the fewer people die from the epidemic,” he stressed. The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, also supported the government’s action. “Vaccination saved lives, the lives of ourselves and others,” she underlined.
The vaccination obligation was not supported by the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) alone. “The introduction of this coercion is a huge assassination of human freedom in Austria, a terrorist attack on the human dignity of the population,” said Herbert Kickl, the president of the FPÖ.
The bill was approved by 137 votes to 33 with the help of the opposition Social Democrats and the liberal Neos.
Mandatory vaccination is planned to be introduced in several stages. In the first, initial phase, from early February to March 14, all households will be notified of the requirements in writing.
The penalty range is from €600 to €3,600 but it is not yet clear how the measure will be enforced.