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Which countries in Europe will follow Austria and make COVID vaccines mandatory?

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By Lauren Chadwick  & Euronews
A man receives a shot of the Moderna vaccine, part of a COVID-19 vaccination campaign, in San Sebastian, northern Spain, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021
A man receives a shot of the Moderna vaccine, part of a COVID-19 vaccination campaign, in San Sebastian, northern Spain, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Austria is set to begin a pioneering experiment this week - becoming the first country in Europe to make COVID vaccines compulsory for all adults.

To mark the moment, we take a look at how close other parts of the continent are to following Vienna's lead.

Is Austria an outlier or a trailblazer?

Austria

MPs in January gave the green light to make COVID vaccines mandatory and the law set to come into effect from February 3.

Fines for non-compliance can be up to €3,600.

Introducing plans for mandatory vaccination, Alexander Schallenberg, the then-chancellor of Austria, said it was the only way to avoid fresh waves of the virus.

Greece

Greece is fining people over the age of 60 who refuse to get vaccinated.

They will be fined €100 per month if they don't receive the jab by 2 February.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis defended the measure saying the older group represented 90% of deaths due to COVID-19.

Since last September, Greece has required health workers in public and private facilities to be vaccinated.

Athens also requires proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 to access restaurants and other aspects of public life.

Germany

German MPs are debating different proposals that could make vaccination mandatory with fines for people who choose not to get jabbed.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in favour of mandating vaccination but has left it to lawmakers to agree on whether it targets the whole population or just older individuals.

Angela Merkel, who previously said vaccination would not be compulsory, said in December that if she were a member of the Bundestag, she would vote in favour of mandatory vaccination.

Italy

Italy announced on January 5 that COVID vaccines would be made mandatory for people over-50.

It came amid a record surge in COVID infections at the start of the year.

Last April, Italy became one of the first countries to mandate vaccination for health professionals in an effort to protect patients.

That was later extended to teachers, the military, police and rescue workers. It came into force on 15 December.

University staff were later added to the list of professions where vaccination is mandatory.

France

France's health minister Olivier Véran said mandatory vaccination was not the "choice France had made" because it would be too difficult to enforce.

The country made COVID jabs compulsory for health and care professionals, firefighters and transport workers last September.

France introduced a vaccine pass on 24 January after a long debate in parliament. The pass requires proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 in order to access bars, restaurants, gyms and events, among other aspects of public life. People with jobs who are in contact with the public must have a vaccine pass in order to go to work.

Hungary

Vaccination is required in Hungary for health workers, state school teachers and people working in state institutions.

Private companies are allowed to decide whether workers must be vaccinated or not.

Hungarian officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Orban, have urged citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

United Kingdom

COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for health and social care workers by April 1 in England, UK health secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Javid said in a BBC interview however that he did not think the UK would "ever look at" mandating vaccines for the general population, stating that vaccine hesitancy was low in the country.

Care home workers, and those entering a care home, have needed to be fully vaccinated since November.

Sweden

A spokesperson for the Swedish health minister told Euronews the government does not plan to introduce compulsory vaccination.

"Keeping vaccinations voluntary, building trust and helping citizens make informed decisions, has proved to be successful in reaching high vaccination rates in Sweden," the spokesperson said.

Sweden currently requires a vaccination certificate for indoor events with more than 50 people.

Denmark

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in December that they "would very much like it to be the individual who makes the decision".

Denmark had issued a COVID-19 pass requiring vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a negative test to access much of public life including restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers.

But all restrictions will end in Denmark from 31 January, with authorities stating that COVID-19 was no longer a "socially critical disease".

Switzerland

Switzerland's government states that "legally, a general obligation for the population to be vaccinated is excluded" but transparent information should be provided to allow people to make a decision.

The government or local cantons can impose vaccination on "vulnerable groups of people and for certain people, under very strict conditions."

However, no one can be "forced" to get vaccinated.

The Swiss recently voted in favour of COVID-19 measures, including maintaining the use of health passes to access public life, in a referendum.

Proof of vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19 is required indoors at bars, restaurants, cinemas and other events.

Latvia

Latvia has measures in place that restrict people who are unvaccinated.

From 15 December, workers have had to present a COVID-19 vaccination or recovery certificate. In state institutions, this applies to people who work remotely as well. Latvia requires doctors, teachers and people in social care homes to be vaccinated.

A COVID-19 pass, proving vaccination or recovery from the virus, is also required to access retail stores, cultural events and restaurants.

Minister of Health, Mr Daniels Pavļuts, has publicly said that Latvia is looking at other countries' decisions on mandatory vaccination, and may also follow such an approach, the health ministry told Euronews.

Slovenia

There are no mandatory vaccinations for coronavirus in Slovenia, the ministry of health told Euronews.

Slovenia's constitutional court had blocked a mandate for state workers to be either vaccinated or recovered from the virus in December.

Proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative COVID-19 test is required for employees and for access to much of public life.

"We agree with the President of the European Commission that compulsory vaccination should be debated upon on the EU scale. In any case, it is first necessary to reach a broader socio-political consensus on the possible introduction," a ministry of health adviser said in an email.

Poland

Poland's ministry of health said in December they were preparing to introduce mandatory vaccination for medical workers from March 1.

They are also preparing to introduce the measure for teachers and "uniformed services" such as military and police.

Slovakia

Slovakia's prime minister said that the country could consider mandatory vaccinations if a new COVID-19 variant hospitalised more people.

"If there is a variant that would put people back in hospitals, we can consider mandatory vaccinations. However, data on how omicron will affect hospitals are still lacking. It's important that we wait for the end of the wave," Eduard Heger said.

Slovakia's health ministry and justice ministry have confirmed that mandatory vaccination could theoretically be introduced in the country.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg's parliament debated earlier this month whether or not to make vaccination mandatory.

MPs passed a motion asking the government to modify the proposed legislation in order to introduce mandatory vaccination for health workers and those over the age of 50, according to the Chamber's website.

Corrected: This story has been updated to reflect that Austria's law is set to come into effect from February 3. It had originally been planned to come into effect on February 1.

Additional sources • Alexandra Leistner, Marie Jamet, Rita Palfi, AP