VIENNA (LifeSiteNews) — The Austrian parliament has passed the highly controversial universal vaccine mandate for all adults which was first announced in November 2021.
On Thursday evening, in what was essentially a procedural vote, 137 Austrian MPs voted in favor of the mandate, while 33 voted against it.
About a dozen MPs said they were sick and unable to be in parliament for the vote. At least some of them likely were afraid to cast a no vote in opposition to the party line.
The result is far from unexpected as the mandate was practically assured of approval to begin with. Four out of the five main Austrian parties had worked with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on the plans, including his own conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens.
Only Austria’s right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) voted against the mandate.
“I am appalled, I am stunned, and I am shocked,” said FPÖ chairman Herbert Kickl, who argued that the mandate signals the introduction of “health communism” in Austria and is going to pave the way to totalitarianism.
The new law will now enter into effect in February. When it does, all adults over 18 will be legally obliged to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or take steps to get vaccinated under penalty of heavy fines and even jail sentences. Enforcement of the law, however, will only begin in mid-March.
Earlier this week, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he intends to implement the mandate in three phases following a transition period in February which is meant to give unvaccinated people more time to “be persuaded” to get the jab and during which “more information will be made available to them.”
In phase 1, which will start mid-March, Austrian authorities will start checking the vaccination status of each citizen over 18.
In phase 2, “if the progress of the vaccination rate is still not sufficient,” a “reminder letter” will be sent to those who are still not vaccinated.
Finally, in phase 3, a letter with a vaccination appointment will be sent to every remaining unvaccinated person in the country.
Heavy fines as high as 3,600 euros ($4,108) will apply in the event of non-compliance, and if the vaccination appointment is not attended. Nehammer said he hopes the third phase will not be needed, as he expects the measure to drastically increase vaccination rates in the country.
To date, approximately 2.5 million Austrian citizens remain unvaccinated and will soon be facing serious legal consequences if they remain so in the coming months.
Many in Austria, including within the police forces, completely oppose the mandate and deem it extreme and undemocratic, as the mass protests and demonstrations that have taken place in the past two months have shown.
In a video he posted on Twitter earlier Thursday, anti-lockdown activist Alexander Tschugguel showed police trying to suppress a peaceful protest that was taking place in front of the Austrian parliament, as the MPs were gathering for the vote. The voice of a female police officer can be heard over a megaphone asking protesters to leave the scene and arguing that the gathering is against the law.
— Alexander Tschugguel (@ATschugguel) January 20, 2022
“We will fight against this as long as possible,” said Tschugguel. “Now we have to leave but we will come back … we will win this.”
Tschugguel has been one of the most prominent voices to oppose the vaccine mandate in Austria. Like many in the country, he considers it to be an extreme, totalitarian-like measure, especially in view of the relatively low risk that COVID poses to healthy people with no pre-existing health conditions.
Austria has a total population of 8.9 million and has logged 13.501 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago.