Austria has scrapped its dormant COVID-19 vaccine mandate after just four months, deeming it “no longer medically or constitutionally necessary” despite rising infections.
Health Minister Johannes Rauch said on Thursday that new coronavirus variants had changed citizens’ perception of the effectiveness and necessity of vaccination.
In February, the country had become the first in Europe to make COVID-19 jabs mandatory for all people aged over 18.
But the mandate was soon suspended by lawmakers before police were due to enforce the measure in March.
“We have to live with covid from now on, so we will implement a series of new measures,” Rauch said at a press conference in Vienna.
“Even those who had agreed to be vaccinated are now reluctant to be given a new dose.”
The minister added that the mandate had been introduced “in a different context” at a time when hospital wards were on the brink of collapsing from being overcrowded but that it was no longer warranted by the current situation.
Rauch also said that inflation and high energy prices, as well as fears surrounding the war in Ukraine, had contributed to tensions in society.
Currently, an estimated 62% of the Alpine country’s population has a valid vaccination certificate. The country has recorded more than 18,700 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.