On February 1 Austria became the first European country to make vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory for anyone over-18.
Karoline Edtstadler, Minister for EU and Constitution, said politicians had a responsiblity to ensure that that healthcare system is still working and “society, as a whole, can live normally.”
Around 72% of Austrians are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Herald spoke to two families who are divided over the mandate.
Katia Austerlitz, a social worker, lives in Vienna with her husband Klaus who is a journalist.
“The vaccination mandate is not too popular here. It was implemented because of promises made by politicians.
“In summer 2021 our former chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared the pandemic over.
“But then we had another lockdown in November and so Kurz’ successor then said we would have a vaccination mandate.
“So on the one hand there was the bad Delta variant that filled out ICUs and on the other hand it was a politically driven decision.
“Now we have another chancellor and he has stuck to that decision and so we now have compulsary vaccinations.
“There won’t be any sentences or fees before March 15 if one is not vaccinated.
“Furthermore the social security companies cannot administrate the whole thing before April and another problem is that exceptions of the mandate cannot be handled yet.
“Besides that, unvaccinated people are allowed to enter shops or got to work if they are tested – which does not make any sense if you have a vaccination mandate.
“The government and the social democrats now want to give money to the people so that they will have a vaccination. Which in our mind is complete nonsense.
“Even vaccinated people are not very happy about the mandate.
“We are both vaccinated three times but we are also not very happy about the vaccination mandate because there are side effects and the Austrian government does not – unlike the government in the UK – disclose the number of these cases.
“Our daughter probably got cardiac dysrhythmia from it as our doctor says.
“But we think it makes absolute sense when there is a mandate in certain professional areas like in the health system. When social workers in Vienna are newly hired hepatitis vaccinations are mandatory.
“Furthermore Klaus thinks that a vaccination mandate for people over 60 also makes sense (this the case in Greece).
“There is one more thing that really makes us angry and terrifies us at the same time, that the topic vaccination is taken over by the far right, the extreme right and Neonazis, who want first and foremost to destabilize the country and its democracy.
“The Nazis argued against vaccination which they said was a thing invented by Jewish doctors who wanted to kill the population.
“We are very surprised to see that quite many people do not believe in science but in esoteric stuff and the like.”
Andrea Rubik, who also lives in Vienna, is in favour of compulsary vaccination.
“I am convinced that it is fundamentally correct.
“The majority of the population is vaccinated, they have all taken responsibility, they acted in solidarity.
“Refusal to vaccinate comes with many disadvantages and dangers for society, it´s not a private matter, it’s selfish.
“The costs to the health service are enormous. The vast majority of unvaccinated people need ICU care and long covid is 70% higher in the unvaccinated group.
“Hospitals are under extreme pressure and people with other diseases are not receiving the necessary medical care or treatment.
“A colleague of mine has been waiting for a liver transplant for more than 8 months.
“The last operation date was before Christmas and she doesn´t have a new date yet.
“She is about 35 – 40 and has private health insurance and the operation has to take place in Germany.
“Another colleague of mine is waiting for an operation date, she is 56 and has lumps in her breast. She’s been waiting at least three months.
“Why should only members of the systemically important groups be obliged to get a vaccine?
“If only certain professional groups are required to be vaccinated, there could be an additional shortage of staff in hospitals and aged care, because staff in the sector would change to another economic sector.
“If there is a compulsory for all, this risk of staff shortages is avoided.”