Austria to announce details of planned COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Austria is the first European Union member state to announce a general requirement


Austria's government is due to announce details on Thursday of a plan to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory, which according to officials will include a minimum age of at least 14 and a maximum fine of $4,000, but not prison, for holdouts.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein and the minister for constitutional affairs, Karoline Edtstadler, said this week the specifics were subject to change in talks with experts and opposition parties. However, the scheduling of an announcement for Thursday suggested major shifts were unlikely.

Since conservative Chancellor Karl Nehammer took office on Monday, Mueckstein and Edstadler have repeated that there will be no jail terms for those who still refuse to get vaccinated even once this becomes compulsory in February.

In an interview with national broadcaster ORF on Tuesday, Edtstadler stopped short of confirming media reports that the minimum age would be 14, but said the government had received legal advice that it would be hard to set the age lower than that, adding that children below 14 would be exempt.

"We have set a maximum fine of 3,600 euros ($4,075) but I emphasize again that we are still in discussions with experts because of course the fine should be dissuasive, but it should not be so dissuasive that we generate more resistance..."

While some countries have introduced vaccine requirements for parts of their populations like health workers, Austria is the first European Union member state to announce a general requirement. There will be exceptions for some categories of people like pregnant women, Edtstadler said.

A news conference with Edtstadler and Mueckstein is due to be held at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT), the conservative-led government announced on Thursday morning. ($1 = 0.8835 euros)

(Reporting by Francois Murphy Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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