Austrian parliament passes Europe's strictest Covid-19 vaccine mandate

Eventually, unvaccinated Austrians will face a maximum fine of 3,600 euro ($4,074) up to four times a year.

Updated: January 20, 2022 - 9:27pm

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Austria's parliament voted 137 to 33 in favor of requiring all residents over the age of 18 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in what will be Europe's most stringent mandate, despite protests.

The requirement goes into effect Feb. 1, provided it is approved by the upper house and is signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen, both of which are considered formalities according to the BBC.

Starting March 15, Austrian authorities will begin checking if people are following the mandate, which is in effect until January 2024. Those who do not comply will face a 600 euro ($680) initial fine.

Eventually, unvaccinated Austrians will face a maximum fine of 3,600 euro ($4,074) up to four times a year if they continue to not follow the mandate.

Since the law was announced, Vienna has seen regular anti-mandate protests, with crowds as large as 40,000 people.

Lawmakers initially wanted the vaccine to be compulsory for people ages 14 and up.

The vaccine is not mandated for pregnant women, people who cannot medically be vaccinated, and those who have recovered from COVID-19 within the previous 180 days. If a medical professional issues a vaccine exemption for reasons other than those stated in the bill, they could face fines of 7,200 euros ($8,148).

"Today is a day of shame for the Austrian parliament and for our democracy," Austrian right-wing leader Herbert Kickl said after the bill passed. He called the measure a "totalitarian low point of the government's failure that has been going on for two years." 

Parliament also introduced a lottery with 1 billion euros to encourage people to get vaccinated. CNN reports that every tenth person will receive a 500 euro ($568) gift voucher. Austrians will get a ticket for each shot, meaning that including booster shots, many Austrians will have three lottery tickets.