Mandatory jab in Austria: a model for all Europe?

From February 1, 2022, vaccination will be compulsory in Austria. The country currently has one of the highest Covid infection rates worldwide. Up to now vaccination has been made mandatory only for certain occupations in various EU states such as France or Greece. A number of commentators argue that Austria's lead should be followed - or at least seriously discussed - elsewhere in Europe.

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Kainuun Sanomat (FI) /

All other options exhausted

Kainuun Sanomat welcomes the Austrian decision:

“We have the right to decide whether we want to be vaccinated or not. That's an important right. But it also entails an important responsibility, in this case the responsibility for life. ... Who among us can afford to play god in a situation where we can all, without knowing it, be carrying a weapon? ... If a European country has decided to introduce compulsory vaccination, isn't that a clear message to other countries? The alternatives have been considered for long enough now, from passports to restricting people from going to pubs for several hours.”

Pravda (SK) /

Hard to enforce in Slovakia

Although it would help Slovakia if a lockdown were accompanied by compulsory vaccination, such a step is unlikely, Pravda sighs:

“The vaccination campaign is still stagnating, although it has accelerated somewhat in recent days. ... Even though the justice minister claims that there are no constitutional obstacles blocking mandatory vaccination, things just aren't that simple. Were we to introduce it, the state would have to compensate anyone whose health was damaged by the vaccine. ... So for the time being, Prime Minister Heger is only talking about vaccinating those aged 60 or over - or 50 or over - and wants to submit a constitutional law to that effect. Whether this has a chance of being passed in parliament, however, is anybody's guess.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Apparently necessary, but with broad support

The country's elected representatives must decide at what point mandatory vaccination becomes inevitable in Germany too, the Süddeutsche Zeitung demands:

“'Black' or 'white' is not appropriate for a topic with infinite shades of grey. ... [The debate] belongs in the Ethics Council, the experts of the WHO should be involved. But above all: this question must be debated in the German parliament. It is wrong to fight a pandemic by either doing nothing or too little or by resorting to the harshest measures imaginable. If the vaccination rate does not increase despite all efforts, if the virus mutates, if the fourth wave is followed by a fifth, compulsory vaccination will become inevitable anyway. But the yes to such a measure must not come as easily as the no at the start of this pandemic.”

Profil (AT) /

Austria no role model

The introduction of mandatory vaccination is proof that the government has failed, Profile argues:

“Our elected representatives were unable or unwilling to manage the pandemic within the bounds of what was possible and reasonable. ... The politicians' complete inaction has transitioned seamlessly into the imposition of the most severe measures imaginable. This is why Austria's compulsory vaccination is not a model for the rest of the world. In fact at this point it's no more than an emergency measure forced by circumstances the politicians themselves caused.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Way wide open to despotism

Forcing people to undergo a medical procedure is unacceptable in a liberal democracy, The Daily Telegraph rails:

“Those who refuse to be vaccinated may be unwise, perhaps selfish. But if they are not even allowed to decide what medical procedures they will undergo and what drugs they receive into their own bodies, then there is not much left of their autonomy as human beings. The way is wide open to despotism and unending social discord. The rest of us should look on and note how easily liberal democracy can be subverted by fear.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

The last resort for the health system

The government in Vienna had to take a stand in a desperate situation, writes the Kleine Zeitung:

“Mandatory vaccination means that in future those who refuse to get vaccinated could be subject to administrative fines. And even more measures could be derived from this, such as those who disregard the obligation to get vaccinated having to pay for medical treatment out of their own pocket if they get sick. The goal is to keep the health system going, and in view of the trend over the last few days it must be clear now to even the last doubter that keeping vaccination voluntary is not enough, and that increased pressure must be exerted on those who refuse to get the jab.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Far too slow on the uptake

The introduction of compulsory vaccination in Austria is an admission of failure, the Financial Times comments:

“It did not help that the government declared 'the pandemic mastered, the crisis beaten' this summer when the vaccination campaign was far from complete. Austria had a Covid pass but its effects were blunted by easily available free tests. Restrictions on the unvaccinated, while discriminatory and divisive, might have spurred more vaccine uptake had they been implemented earlier. Resorting to compulsory vaccination - which should be a step too far for any government - is an admission of failure by Vienna. Regrettably, it is not the only capital to fall short.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Pre-modern absolutisation of the body

It was a mistake to rule out compulsory vaccination from the outset, writes Hinnerk Wißmann, professor of public law, in Die Welt:

“The Infection Protection Act has always allowed for compulsory vaccination - and still does. The obligation to vaccinate against measles applies for all children - via compulsory education - and also to their teachers and educators. Why the same should not apply with the coronavirus, for example for pensioners and their carers, is unclear. ... Today's reticence regarding compulsory vaccination is a very strange, essentially pre-modern absolutisation of the body - as if people could not be oppressed by poverty, stupidity, or mental coercion in the same way as by crossing the skin barrier.”

Politiken (DK) /

Everyone is entitled to live normally

To introduce mandatory vaccination in Denmark too would be wrong, says Politiken:

“Even if vaccination is the way out of the pandemic, the idea of special rules is wrong. 2G [vaccinated or recovered] rules like in Austria would hardly end the pandemic, which is also being driven by 600,000 unvaccinated school children. In particular, it would be unacceptable to push people to get vaccinated through restrictions so stringent that they prevent normal life. Even during a pandemic, people have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. ... Community spirit includes respect for those with whom one disagrees.”

Visão (PT) /

Vaccination alone not enough

It will take more than high vaccination rates to get the delta variant under control, Visão observes:

“The vaccine helps, but it does not solve the problem. It has to be accompanied by restrictions. In the real test we now see: countries that are fully vaccinated, or have very high vaccination rates and that have lifted all restrictions, as was the case in Europe, including Portugal, are now engulfed by the fifth wave. ... The assumption is that things won't settle down until second-generation vaccines and highly effective drugs which don't yet exist come onto the market, and that it will be necessary to continue to protect certain sections of the population with restrictions and distance rules.”