Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced on Sunday that in February, the country will become the first in Europe to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for adults. He agreed that this was a “sensitive topic.”
Those who do not comply, according to Nehammer, a conservative who took office in December, will face a heavy charge.
“We will decide on compulsory vaccination as planned. It will come into force at the beginning of February” for adults, he told a news conference.
Since plans for mandatory vaccinations were originally unveiled last year, Austrians have been debating the subject.
To date, 71.5 percent of eligible Austrians have had their vaccinations, a figure that is several percentage points lower than that of several of the country’s EU neighbours.
Nehammer recognised that the choice included “a highly delicate subject,” but insisted that it was made after due study.
He cautioned that following a “entry period” for the programme, limitations on people who refuse to take the vaccine would be “tightened proportionately” in mid-March, including fines of 600-3,600 euros ($684-$4,100).
Approximately 27,000 individuals protested the mandatory vaccination policy on Saturday. Opponents call the requirement a violation of personal liberty.
On Thursday, Parliament is expected to enact a bill that was originally intended to include all people aged 14 and up, but would now only apply to adults.
Pregnant women and others who can show they have a medical exemption will be exempt.
Only the far-right opposes the government’s strategy, which has overwhelming backing.
In a population of nine million people, Austria has seen nearly 14,000 Covid-related deaths and 1.4 million illnesses.
Compulsory Covid vaccines are still uncommon around the world, though they have been implemented in Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, and Micronesia.