The Austrian parliament Thursday approved the introduction of mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 by 137 votes in favor and 33 against. The measure will take effect Feb. 4. Austria has thus become the first European nation to legalize such a practice.
The Government maintains the move is aimed at preventing the spread of the pandemic, despite strong resistance from the population. The initiative had been promoted by the head of the conservative government Karl Nehammer. Only the ultra-nationalist and anti-vaccine party FPÖ opposed it in block.
Parliament also approved fines of up to 3,600 euros for all those over 18 years of age residing in the country and who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Vaccination is the opportunity for our society to achieve sustainable and continued freedom, without being limited by the virus,” Conservative Prime Minister Nehammer said before the session. It's “a topic of very intense debate,” he acknowledged.
The measure, announced in November to promote vaccination in the face of rising infections, was supported by the Greens - coalition partners of the Conservatives - and by the Liberal and Social Democratic parties.
Tens of thousands of Austrians have been demonstrating for months almost every weekend against the bill. The protests have forced the government to reinforce the protection of vaccination centers.
The leader of the far-right FPÖ party, Herbert Kickl, denounced the bill cleared the way to totalitarianism.
Today we don't have a majority in Parliament, but we have it outside, Kickl declared, vowing to challenge the law.
Refusal to be vaccinated will entail fines of between 600 and 3,600 euros, which will be canceled if the offender is immunized within two weeks.
Almost 30,000 new infections had been detected in Austria Wednesday in the last 24 hours. About 72% of the 8.9 million Austrians have the complete vaccination scheme, while one and a half million adults still need to be convinced.