Vaccination duty: how can it look?

The vaccination against Covid-19: Hardly any other topic triggered so much discussion last year. And hardly any other measure can have such a lasting effect on the course of the Corona pandemic. But should the vaccination therefore be made compulsory? How could such a vaccination obligation look concretely? And is this legal at all? Austria is the first country to demonstrate how and what is possible.

Symbol image Coronavirus vaccination

On 04. February 2022 a vaccination obligation against Corona comes into force in Austria. It was passed two weeks earlier by the Austrian parliament. It applies to all persons over the age of 18, with the exception of pregnant women or persons who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

This makes Austria a pioneer in Europe, because no country has gone this far yet. Only Greece and Italy so far have mandatory Covid 19 vaccination for over-60s. But how exactly does Austria implement the duty to vaccinate?

Austria leads the way

In Austria, of course, no one is detained by orderlies and receives the prick against their will. It is still compulsory vaccination and not compulsory vaccination. Instead, the Austrian state regulates compulsory vaccination via fines and registration registers in three phases:

From the beginning of February to 15. March 2022, all persons have the opportunity to be protected against the coronavirus with the vaccinations intended for them. From 15. March, the police will then randomly check the vaccination certificates in the second phase. Those who can’t prove valid vaccination will be charged. If no valid certificate is then submitted within two weeks, fines of 600 euros will be imposed. If this fine is also not complied with, the penalties are up to 3.600 euros.

According to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, a third phase will only take place if the country does not achieve the targeted herd immunity of 90 percent of those vaccinated against Covid-19. Then for still non-vaccinated persons a date for the vaccination is to be fixed by order, which the persons concerned receive by letter. Those who fail to comply with it will face further fines of.

Symbol of compulsory vaccination in Austria

GettyImages, Igor Vershinsky

Instead of paying, win something

An additional motivation to vaccinate is to be created in Austria through a vaccination lottery. The Austrian government plans to allocate a total of one billion euros for this purpose. Only people who have already been vaccinated can take part. Each partial vaccination can be understood as a lottery ticket, so that those who are vaccinated have three chances to win. For example, a family of five that has received three vaccinations each will have 15 tickets after signing up for the vaccination lottery. The probability of winning a voucher is thus quite high, because about every tenth vaccination is rewarded by the state. In the event of a win, those vaccinated will be rewarded with vouchers worth 500 euros, which can be redeemed in the catering trade or in retail outlets.

In addition to the vaccination lottery, there will be bonuses for each community, which will be higher the more people are vaccinated. An Austrian community with 3.000 inhabitants receives, for example, 30.000 euros for a vaccination rate of 80 percent, while a vaccination rate of 90 percent would cost 120 euros.000 euros will be distributed. The money should be used to advertise the vaccination, but can also be invested in own projects such as sports or playgrounds.

What does it look like legally?

To understand how compulsory vaccination can be legally justified, a look at the Basic Law can help: Article 2 of the German Basic Law states: "Everyone has the right to life and physical integrity. The freedom of the person is inviolable." On the one hand, this can be understood in the sense that no one is allowed to interfere with bodily self-determination.

However, the article also says: "These rights may only be interfered with by law.". And exactly such a law can be justified again with article 2. Because people also have a right to remain physically unharmed by not becoming infected and to have a functioning health care system. The state is therefore allowed to interfere with fundamental rights in order to protect the supply of health goods to the population, Ulrich Becker of the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich told MDR.

Compulsory vaccination in Germany

On 10. December 2021, the German Bundestag and Bundesrat passed the "Act to Strengthen Vaccination Prevention against Covid-19" and thus compulsory vaccination for certain institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ surgeries and emergency services. From the age of 16. March 2022, people without proof of vaccination or proof that they cannot be vaccinated will therefore no longer be able to work in these areas.

A general obligation to vaccinate against the coronavirus, on the other hand, does not exist in our country – and whether it should exist in the future is highly controversial. As recently as mid-2021, many politicians ruled out mandatory vaccination in principle. In view of the increasing number of infections and a still too low vaccination rate, the vaccination rate is still too low

Voluntary willingness to be vaccinated, but the mood changed. Then, at the end of November 2021, Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised a general vaccination requirement no later than the beginning of March.

A first step toward vaccination obligation makes the Bundestag topically with an orientation debate. However, it remains to be seen whether compulsory vaccination will be enforced in this country and whether this measure will then be of any use at all against the pandemic. In any case, it won’t be quick: A session of the Bundestag on this topic will not take place again until 8. April 2022 takes place – and whether then a tuning takes place and over what, is openly.

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