The Austria parliament’s lower house on Thursday voted 137-to-33 in favor of a nation-wide Covid-vaccine mandate for all residents over age 18.
The upper house of parliament is expected to approve the mandate in early February. Pregnant women, people who recovered from Covid in the past six months, and people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons will be exempt from the mandate. Close to 72 percent of Austrians were fully vaccinated for Covid as of Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
“This is how we can manage to escape the cycle of opening and closing, of lockdowns,” Austria health minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said in parliament before the vote. “That is why this law is so urgently needed right now.”
The government also introduced a vaccine lottery for residents who have not yet been vaccinated. Austrian citizens will receive one ticket for each Covid vaccine shot they receive, and every tenth ticket will come with a 500-euro prize.
“To put it bluntly, we have earmarked up to 1 billion euro for the vaccination lottery which is based on reward and incentive,” Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters prior to the vote. “I believe it’s totally justified to spend this money.”
The vaccine mandate is scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of February, while police will begin enforcing the mandate on March 15. Police will be able to check residents’ vaccination status, and residents could face fines of up to 600 euros for repeated failure to prove they are vaccinated for Covid.
Should an adult resident without a valid exemption continue to refuse to get vaccinated, Austria’s mandate will allow the government to set a vaccination appointment for that resident and continue to fine them for failure to show up. Residents face maximum fines of up to 3,600 euros four times a year for continued refusal to get vaccinated.