Austria Set to Retire the Vaccine Mandate by End of August
Health Minister admits that the law "isn't convincing anyone to accept vaccination," and has been responsible for deep social rifts
Yesterday, Green Party health minister Johannes Rauch announced in a press conference that the Austrian vaccine mandate will be retired after 31 August. His announcement follows the decision in March to suspend the law with its promised fines – as high as 3,600 Euros – for the unvaccinated, which were said to be “disproportionate” given the mildness of Omicron. Rauch explained:
The vaccine mandate has not increased the number of people getting vaccinated, and they have also opened up rifts in the population. I’m convinced that it won’t help us to achieve the goal of motivating as many people as possible to have a booster in autumn – rather the opposite. It’s time to close those rifts again. Abolishing the mandate is another step out of crisis mode, towards normalisation. We must learn to live with Covid-19.
Of course Rauch also had excuses: The legislation was introduced at a totally different moment, in the midst of a Delta wave that had caused surging hospitalisations and brought intensive care units in Austria to their capacity limits.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, in a radio interview, concurred that the mandate “was not the appropriate measure to increase the vaccination rate.” It had instead caused social division, at a time when “We have to fight together against the virus and not against each other.” As recently as January, he had called the mandate “a way back to freedom” and explained that the unvaccinated would not have to pay heavy fines, as long as they showed “active remorse” and submitted to vaccination after all.
Peter Hacker, city health councillor for Vienna, told reporters that he didn’t oppose the move and that “it wasn’t our idea here in Vienna, we just went along with it.” He added that, “If it causes negative feelings around vaccination, and that actually seems to me to have been the case, then it’s probably wiser to abolish the mandate.”
I often hear that opposition to pandemic policies is hopeless and that we are condemned to accept nothing but loss after loss. That’s not true. This is a massive victory to Austrian opponents of mass vaccination, and it represents a serious defeat for the pandemicists, who can now only speak of their defunct mandate in apologetic tones and with vaguely embarrassed excuses. General vaccine mandates are dead all over Europe, and Omicron is only the indirect cause. The vaccinators were already at the limits of their strength even at the height of the Delta wave; improving disease statistics merely drained off enough of the ambient hysteria to make their battle wholly unwinnable.
They’ll never acknowledge any weakness, they’ll deny us the appearance of every victory. And yet, despite everything they do to present an invulnerable facade, they’re not all-powerful. We haven’t won victories everywhere, but what we have done, is increase the cost of their policies, make them look ridiculous, and develop a more compelling discourse about the pandemic, than the pandemicist experts themselves have ever been able to manage.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, the Austrian mandate was never enforced. It was suspended in March to the end of May, and in May to the end of August. Now the government is simply retiring the legislation at the end of the suspension.