Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) updated the Austria vaccination plan on Monday, March 15, and submitted it to the federal states by decree.
The changes in the adapted vaccination plan in short:
- Elderly and high-risk patients will be given priority.
- The AstraZeneca vaccine will now also be used to vaccinate those over 65.
- And those who are confirmed to have had COVID-19 in the past will only get one vaccine jab for now, as recommended by health experts.
Over 65s First
In the now starting phase 2, the priority for people over age 65 and at-risk patients takes precedence over other groups, such as contact persons of pregnant women or staff at schools, daycare center, and child care facilities. Before, the plan was to vaccinate these groups in parallel. Now, the latter will only be given a chance for their vaccine shot after “all persons over age 65 have been offered vaccination in a timely manner.”
In addition, the restrictions on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine were removed. In mid-February, the National Immunization Panel (NIG) had recommended the use of the vaccine now also for people aged over 65.
Second Shot Delayed for Some
The decree also adjusted the vaccine regulation for those who have already had COVID-19. If the COVID-19 infection was confirmed by a laboratory, it is recommended that vaccination be deferred for 6-8 months and then, according to current knowledge, only one dose be administered. If laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection occurs between the first and second doses, the second dose should be deferred for 6-8 months.
Now a Binding Guideline
Anschober reiterated Monday that rapid vaccination of the increasing supply of vaccines in the coming months will be “crucial.”
Media outlets reported that more than 300,000 vaccine doses are currently waiting on shelves as of mid-March, compared to a bit over 1 million doses administered so far. This is about 23% of the total supply of vaccines that Austria received.
In order to speed up vaccinations, a new decree is to go to the federal states shortly. The national vaccination plan is a binding guideline for all places administering the vaccine in Austria. It gives instructions on the sequence of vaccinations up to the summer based on the promised delivery quantities and delivery dates. Health Minister Anschober last updated it in mid-February.
The new decrees* were deemed necessary both due to new information on the vaccine situation and due to increasing calls to unify Austrian vaccination efforts, whose details have been largely left to the federal states up to now. This may now be changing.
*A decree is an administrative order, in this case of the Minister of Health, to the subordinate organ administrators, in this case, the governors of federal states, who are bound by instructions of the responsible federal minister. By virtue of instructions, these contain a binding interpretation of laws or ordinances or also instructions as to the specific manner in which the execution of a law or ordinance is to be carried out.