Austria makes Covid vaccination mandatory in EU first

Those refusing to be vaccinated can face fines of up to €3,600 from mid-March

A man receives a Covid-19 vaccination on the passenger ship 'MS Vindobona' on the Danube in Vienna, Austria. Getty Images

Austria's Parliament on Thursday approved making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for adults from next month, becoming the first European country to do so despite a wave of protests opposing the measure.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated against mandatory vaccination in regular weekend rallies since the measure was announced in November in a bid to drive up the country's vaccination rate.

All parties, except those on the far right, supported the measure, with the new legislation passing with 137 votes in favour and 33 votes against in the 183-seat Parliament.

“It is adopted with the [necessary] majority,” Doris Bures, second president of the National Council, said.

To date, 72 per cent of Austrian residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus — in line with the EU-wide average of a little more than 70 per cent, but several percentage points below regional neighbours such as Italy and France.

Under the new law, which takes effect on February 4, those holding out against the shot can face fines of up to 3,600 euros from mid-March after an initial “introductory phase".

The government initially wanted to cover everyone aged 14 and older, but now the measure only applies to adults, except pregnant women and those with a medical exemption.

The overwhelming majority of MPs from all parties voted in favour of the law, with the leaders of the opposition Social Democrats (SPO) and the liberal NEOS lending their backing to the centre right-green coalition.

The only significant opposition came from the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which has courted anti-vaccination voters.