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The general adult population in Austria must receive a COVID-19 vaccine or risk being fine, as per a law that took effect on Saturday.
President Alexander Van der Bellen signed the “Federal Law on the Obligation to Vaccinate against Covid-19” after its approval by parliament. It is the strictest mandate of its kind in Europe.
In neighboring Germany, for example, the introduction of compulsory vaccinations for the general population is still under discussion. Italy and Greece have introduced mandatory jabs only for older citizens.
In Austria, the new rule applies to all residents aged 18 and above, except for pregnant persons and those who cannot get vaccinated due to medical issues.
People who have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection are also exempt under certain conditions.
Violators will be fined by up to €3,600 ($4,100) from mid-March. Only then will random checks be carried out.
Some 70% of Austrians are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had at least two shots of a coronavirus jab. The country has some 9 million inhabitants.
The government had initially planned to offer a so-called “vaccine lottery” as an incentive for the unvaccinated, with €500 ($570) gift vouchers for shops, restaurants, hotels, cultural venues and sports facilities to be raffled among those who are vaccinated.
However the scheme was now postponed, after state broadcaster ORF, tasked with organizing the lottery, voiced organizational and legal concerns.