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Austria’s lower house of Parliament voted on Thursday to make Covid vaccines mandatory for almost everyone 18 and over, putting it on the path to be the first European country with such a wide-reaching mandate.
The law would take effect Feb. 1. The bill must still pass in the upper house and be signed by the president, Alexander Van der Bellen, but both are considered formalities at this point.
While Austria’s bill is the first of its kind, other European nations are pushing large segments of their population to get vaccinated. Italy has made vaccines mandatory for those over 50, with fines for those who do not comply, and Greece has mandated vaccines for those 60 and older. Other European countries have made vaccine passports compulsory for certain activities.
Under the Austrian law, people who are pregnant or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and those who have recently recovered from Covid will be exempt.
Once the law goes into effect, all households will be notified. The government said it would begin routine checks of vaccination status in mid-March, including during traffic checks.
Once the vaccine checks begin, people who can’t immediately produce proof of vaccination will be reported to the authorities, and can be fined up to 600 euros ($685). If people contest their fine, it can increase to 3,600 euros, or about $4,000.
The law is set to last until 2024. Austria’s current rate of vaccination is 75 percent, similar to that of France and of Italy, and new cases are averaging 17,846 a day, according to The New York Times database.
The government announced plans to mandate vaccines in November. At the time, the country had just introduced a lockdown for the unvaccinated, who were driving a surge of infections.
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