Back in February, Austria became the first country in Europe to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all people 18 and above. This was the most comprehensive vaccine mandate in Europe, especially because it had virtually no exceptions for adults.
The original plan involved threatening people who refused vaccination with a fine of up to 3,600 euros ($3,802). But multiple obstacles prevented Austrian lawmakers from effectively enforcing the mandate.
These obstacles included massive public pushback against threats to their health freedom, surveys that showed 13 percent of the population will never get vaccinated, even with the threat of a vaccine mandate and reports of non-compliant persons outright refusing to pay the fine and law enforcement in Austria refusing to enforce the mandate.
Because of all these problems, lawmakers decided to suspend the enforcement of the mandate.
No other government in Europe has passed sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandates, although legislatures in several countries have put forward similar proposals. (Related: German parliament REJECTS proposed COVID vaccine mandate after months of debate.)
Austrian Health Minister Johannes Rauch made the announcement on Thursday, June 23, adding that the new COVID-19 variants have changed the perception of Austrians of the effectiveness and necessity of vaccinating.
"We have decided as a government to do away with the vaccine mandate," said Rauch at a press conference in Vienna announcing the government's decision. "We have to live with COVID from now on… Living with COVID means that we will bring forward a comprehensive package of new measures, and today that means the abolition of compulsory vaccination. No one is getting vaccinated because of the compulsory vaccination."
Rauch added that the mandate was introduced under "a different context" at a time when Austria's hospitals were filled to the brim with COVID-19 patients and were on the verge of collapsing due to the overcrowding. But the current situation no longer warranted such drastic measures.
Demand for new COVID-19 vaccinations is already at an all-time low. On June 22, just 140 people in the country received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The vaccine mandate and the debate around the vaccine mandate have opened up deep rifts in Austria's society," said Rauch. He added that the country can't afford to be divided right now and the government is currently dealing with a myriad of other problems that require the government's attention, including high inflation, surging energy prices and fears of gas shortages related to the war in Ukraine.
"We need every millimeter of solidarity and togetherness to cope with the coming months and years," said Rauch. "The debate surrounding compulsory vaccination and the hardening of positions over this question tore open rifts and did away with that solidarity."
Around 74 percent of the country's population is already fully vaccinated. But this rate has been stagnant since early March, suggesting that the mandate did not convince the unvaccinated in large enough numbers to matter.
Learn more about the fight against COVID-19 vaccine mandates at HealthFreedom.news.
Vaccine mandates everywhere are disappearing. Watch this episode of "The HighWire" as host Del Bigtree talks about how the state government of Florida has forced the 2022 Special Olympics U.S.A. to drop its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.