“The vaccination marks the beginning of the victory against the pandemic,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) at a press conference in Vienna on Wednesday.
The first injections are carried out by Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, President of the Austrian Society for Vaccinology and Chair of the Austrian Vaccination Commission, and the President of the Austrian Medical Association, Thomas Szekeres. There is a special outpatient clinic for high-risk patients at the Meduni. There five test persons volunteered, explained Wiedermann-Schmidt. They all have previous illnesses. The oldest is 93 years old. “These are mainly people who are at risk due to their old age,” says Wiedermann-Schmidt. Numerous other patients have also already registered on a list for the vaccination.
“We have always said that autumn and winter will be tough, we are in this phase right now,” said Kurz. With the vaccination you now have a “game changer” against the corona virus. It was “a reason to be happy. The day will go down in history,” declared the Chancellor. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) also spoke of a “great opportunity”. The challenge is to keep the vaccine cool. An initial dress rehearsal for logistics took place yesterday, Tuesday, reported Anschober. “That worked very well.”
10,000 doses of the vaccine approved on Monday by Biontech / Pfizer will be delivered to Austria on Saturday via Passau and then distributed by the armed forces together with pharmaceutical companies. Vaccinations will then take place all over Austria on Sunday. Initially, there was the approach that the first vaccinations would only be carried out in the Vienna metropolitan area due to the challenging logistics. According to his own statements, Kurz did not consider this a good idea. It is an “important symbolic act” that vaccination takes place all over Austria. “All federal states will get vaccine doses on the 27th, if they want,” said Kurz. According to the Chancellor, up to 975 cans can be accessed per federal state. “They’re packed that way,” he explained, “we can’t just cut them.”
Austria is entitled to 17.5 million vaccine doses from the EU quota. Options for additional deliveries from Pfizer / Biontech amounting to one million were drawn yesterday, said Anschober. It is not about the number of vaccination doses, but when it is delivered, said the Chancellor. “The big question is how quickly can companies get their production up,” Kurz asked.
In January 240,000 doses are available, in February 332,000 and in March 375,000 doses – two vaccinations per person are required. Then one hopes for more vaccines from other providers, said Kurz. The tranches are distributed as fairly as possible across Austria in order to guarantee that the cans are inoculated evenly. “Everything that we can call up, we want to call up,” emphasized the Chancellor. “It would be absurd to save here,” said Kurz, referring to the economic damage and suffering caused by the corona pandemic.
In Austria, vaccinations are first started in high-risk groups, especially older people over 80 years of age. The focus is on nursing homes and health workers “in the exposed area,” said Kurz. The mortality rate for people over 75 who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is ten percent. One in four people over 85 does not survive an infection.
The government will get vaccinated when it is their turn. One is still “too young for that”, emphasized Kurz. “On the first day I have the opportunity to be vaccinated, I will be vaccinated. It is also clear that there can be no privileges for people who hold political office”, affirmed the Chancellor. “We do not belong to the group of people over 80,” he said, explaining why the government has not yet been vaccinated.
Medical Association President Szekeres also emphasized that the vaccination is a “game changer” as long as there is no drug that can prevent severe courses of Covid-19 infections. The vaccine is safe, said Szekeres, it has “already been tried on tens of thousands of people”. In the pandemic, “we didn’t do much wrong,” said Szekeres. In addition, this is not “easy in a situation that we have not yet experienced”. Special thanks go to the health workers. “They are the key to keeping the number of victims in Austria manageable,” said Szekeres. 5,654 infected people have died in this country since the beginning of the pandemic.