Austria’s parliament is to introduce a national vaccine lottery as it prepares to vote in a new law which will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for adults from next month.
Lawmakers from all parties, except those from the far right, are expected to vote in favour of the new law as the number of daily infections reached yet another record on Wednesday.
The lottery will run alongside the vaccine mandate in an attempt to incentivise wary citizens to get vaccinated, with the promise of winning vouchers worth 500 euros to be used in shops, hotels, restaurants and culture and sports venues.
Members of the public, whether already vaccinated or not, would be entitled to one ticket for each shot they have had – three in total for those who have had their booster shot.
Under the vaccine mandate though, those holding out against the jab can face fines of up to 3,600 euros (£2,990) from mid-March.
‘What is there to win in the vaccination lottery? Vouchers!’, said Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.
Hundreds of thousands of Austrian citizens have demonstrated against the hugely unpopular mandate in weekend rallies on an almost weekly basis since the measure was announced in November.
To date 72 percent of Austrian residents are fully vaccinated – in line with the European Union-wide average of just more than 70 percent but several percentage points below regional neighbours such as Italy and France.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents new COVID-19 regulations at a press conference in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 6, 2022. Austria’s parliament is due to vote today on plans to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the adult population, the first of its kind in Europe
People holding placards gathered at Heldenplatz to protest the government’s Covid-19 measures in Vienna, Austria on January 08, 2022
Under the new law, after an initial ‘entry phase’ those holding out against the jab can face fines of up to 3,600 euros (£2,990) from mid-March. Tens of thousands have demonstrated against mandatory vaccination in regular weekend rallies since the measure was announced in November (Jan 08 protests pictured)
Nehammer said he wanted there to be a financial reward for getting vaccinated, adding: ‘We have learned from the past and we have seen that a vaccination lottery is the best possible way to set up such a system.’
The government initially wanted to cover everyone aged 14 and older with the vaccine mandate, but it will now only apply to adults, except pregnant women and those with a medical exemption.
‘Vaccination is an opportunity for our society to achieve lasting and continuous freedom, because the virus cannot restrict us any further,’ Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters on Thursday ahead of the parliament debate.
The conservative, who took office in December, again acknowledged that it was a ‘very intensively discussed, a very passionately discussed topic’.
But the vaccine mandate has proved wildly unpopular, with widespread demonstrations taking place in Austria on a near-weekly basis since the announcement of the planned measures in November.
On Wednesday the government announced it would set up ‘security zones’ around health facilities and vaccination centres so that the police can turn away anyone ‘causing difficulties’, including demonstrators.
Austria has to date seen almost 14,000 Covid-related deaths and 1.5 million cases in a population of some nine million.
Wednesday’s daily infection total was a record of more than 27,600.
Compulsory vaccinations against Covid remain rare worldwide, though Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Micronesia have introduced such schemes.
Critics of vaccine mandates have argued that such a move is highly unethical and would marginalise considerable proportions of society who want to remain in control of their own health.
A doctor administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Vienna, Austria April 26, 2021
Compulsory vaccinations against Covid remain rare worldwide, though Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Micronesia have introduced such schemes. Hundreds of thousands of Austrians have protested against the measure in recent weeks
In the UK meanwhile, tens of thousands of NHS staff who have not had the Covid vaccine face the sack in just a fortnight.
While there is no mandatory vaccination policy in place in Britain for the general population, healthcare workers are being forced into getting vaccinated unless they are medically exempt.
All frontline workers who have not received a jab will be called into formal meetings from February 4 and given a warning that they face dismissal.
NHS England guidance states notices will then be issued from that day, with March 31 marking the end of the notice period.
All frontline staff are required to have both doses of the Covid jab by April 1, meaning that by February 3 the first must have been given, an announcement which prompted a strong backlash from many in the medical community.
In some trusts, as many as 12 per cent of staff have not been vaccinated, meaning those hospitals could lose more than one in 10 workers if they do not come forward for the vaccine in the coming weeks. The top 10 trusts with the lowest vaccine uptake among staff are all in London or Birmingham
The British Medical Association (BMA) argued there is an ‘important distinction’ between believing every healthcare worker should be vaccinated and ‘advocating for mandatory vaccinations’, warning that any vaccine mandate comes with ‘legal, ethical and practical implications that must be considered’ and that the ‘threat to staff’ who refuse to have the vaccine was ‘of grave concern’.
Similarly, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said the move ‘looks set to backfire’ and is ‘an act of self-sabotage’, while the Royal College Midwives (RCM) warned compulsory vaccines will ‘only see staffing levels fall further’ and have a ‘catastrophic impact’.
There are widely shared concerns that that the requirement would ‘further marginalise’ those who were vaccine-hesitant and would ‘put further pressure on a hugely depleted workforce by forcing people out of employment’.
Dr Kamran Abbasi — editor of the British Medical Journal — slammed Facebook for ‘censoring’ its report into allegations of malpractice during Pfizer’s Covid vaccine trials
It comes as the editor of the British Medical Journal slammed Facebook for ‘censoring’ its report into allegations of malpractice during Pfizer’s Covid vaccine trials.
Dr Kamran Abbasi accused the social media giant of suppressing ‘fully fact-checked’ journalism and ‘trying to control how people think’.
A BMJ investigation in November warned that a contractor which ran a number of Pfizer’s original jab studies may have falsified data and skewed findings.
Its report was based on dozens of internal documents, photos, audio-recordings, videos and statements from three former employees.
But when some users shared the journal entry on Facebook, their post was automatically given a ‘missing context’ label.
The shared article was also accompanied by a warning that said it could ‘mislead people’ and a link to a fact-checking website.
The BMJ has slammed Facebook after its article on mistakes made during the Pfizer vaccine trials was labelled as ‘missing context’. Above shows a post where a user shared the article, which is accompanied with a note from Facebook
The BMJ is lodging a complaint with Facebook’s Oversight Board this week after a failed appeal to Mark Zuckerberg to have the tags removed made via an open letter.
Dr Abbasi wrote in the BMJ today: ‘We should all be very worried that Facebook, a multibillion dollar company, is effectively censoring fully fact checked journalism that is raising legitimate concerns about the conduct of clinical trials.’
He added: ‘Facebook’s actions won’t stop The BMJ doing what is right, but the real question is: why is Facebook acting in this way? What is driving its world view?
‘Is it ideology? Is it commercial interests? Is it incompetence?’