On November 15, 2021, the Austrian government ordered a lockdown for the unvaccinated. This drastic step occurred after citing low vaccination rates and the goal to decrease the risk of transmission by unvaccinated people. Just a few days after the vaccination mandate, the Austrian government ordered a full lockdown for everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated. Since then the Austrian government has lifted the lockdown for vaccinated people but kept in place a lockdown for unvaccinated people. The lockdown for unvaccinated people has been extended several times and is currently still in effect. Similar to President Biden’s accusation that the unvaccinated are to blame for the continuous outbreaks of covid across the USA, the Austrian government, a coalition of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei) and the green party (Die Grünen – Die Grüne Alternative), accused the unvaccinated people in the country of being the main cause of the spread of the virus and covid outbreaks. However, the narrative the Austrian government tried to tell the public does not hold up to the data that has come out since imposing the lockdown on the unvaccinated. The Austrian lockdown experience is a good example of the ineffectiveness of lockdowns in curbing the spread of the covid virus.
One month into the lockdown for the unvaccinated in Austria, the Wall Street Journal published an article exclaiming the lockdown for the unvaccinated people is working. It cited an increase in the vaccination rate and a steep drop in cases, relying on a survey that indicated that restrictions targeting the unvaccinated only increased people’s willingness to get vaccinated. It also cited behavioral research confirming that a vaccine mandate would induce skeptics to get vaccinated. Any person confined to their house except for going to work and frequent essential business will cave at some point and get vaccinated out of pure social survival instinct. This misguided belief that vaccination, and possibly forcing people to get vaccinated, is the only solution is most evident in Austrian leaders’ public comments. For example, Austrian health minister Wolfgang Mückstein told reporters at a press conference that
vaccination was the only way out of what he called an eternal cycle of lockdowns. “All of us who stand here have long rejected a general vaccination mandate, but we have since been taught a lesson.”
Even more telling is the attitude of the minister for the constitution, Karoline Edtstadler:
The mandate wasn’t intended as a punishment for the unvaccinated, but rather aimed to include them in the efforts to conquer the pandemic
As part of the lockdown for the vaccinated and unvaccinated the Austrian government unveiled details of a vaccine mandate for everyone in Austria over the age of fourteen starting February 1. The bill would fine people up to €3,600 every three months if they continue to reject the vaccine. Even more frightening is the Austrian government’s willingness to go the extra mile to make this happen. The government in Austria recently changed the law to allow access to medical data that allows identification of all unvaccinated citizens. Similar bills are in circulation in the USA as well; see articles by Ron Paul on the unique patient identifier and Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act (HR 550).
[Also see “Austria’s Blueprint for Covid Despotism” by Georg Grassmueck]
With all these measures in place, in particular the continuous lockdown of the unvaccinated, the number of covid cases in Austria must be falling. Initially, the lockdown seemed to be working. The number of covid cases was falling rapidly to lows in mid- to late December, but since then the number of covid cases has increased rapidly to new record highs.
When the lockdown for unvaccinated people was announced on November 15, 2021, the covid cases peaked immediately at fourteen thousand and dropped to a low of two thousand on December 27, 2021. Since then the covid cases have skyrocketed, to about twenty-two thousand by January 24, 2022, all while the unvaccinated are on lockdown. Government officials may fool the public into believing that a lockdown for the unvaccinated is making everyone safer, but the reality of covid is quite different. The omicron variant does not care whether someone is vaccinated or not; covid spreads regardless of lockdowns. Instead of using the new wave of covid to reconsider its approach to the covid pandemic, the Austrian government doubled down on its vaccination strategy by passing the vaccine mandate legislation on January 20, 2022. The law would make Austria the first country in Europe to introduce a vaccination requirement. More telling is the sheer absurdity of Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who has told reporters that vaccines are “an opportunity for our society to achieve lasting and continuous freedom, because the virus cannot restrict us any further.” Instead of admitting that lockdowns do not work and vaccine mandates are an epic violation of a person’s personal choice, Chancellor Nehammer used the figurative hammer to force a medical procedure on every Austrian. Even more absurd is the fact that the new law will last until January 31, 2024, according to the health ministry. A law that requires people to get vaccinated expires after four years. As Carl Menger wrote, “There is no better means to disclose the absurdity of a mode of reasoning than to let it pursue its full course to the end.” You cannot get unvaccinated or take back a vaccine regardless of what the law says. A law that would fine people up to €3,600, that has the potential to destroy a person’s livelihood, and that could potentially put people in prison expires after four years.
At the same time, Austria’s governing coalition also announced a 1.4-billion-euro campaign to encourage unvaccinated people to get the vaccine. A strategy to educate and encourage people to get vaccinated without the force of the government is a far superior play to threatening people with financial ruin. It is clear that Austria’s government completely misses the boat with its policy. Instead of threatening people with ruining their lives, the Austrian government should focus on providing people with open and reliable data. Forcing a vaccine mandate is shortsighted and threatens the long-term well-being of people. It is time to oppose the vaccine mandate in Austria and any other countries contemplating such a step.