As is so often the case when dealing with the pandemic, it has to be done quickly. The epidemic and health rules will once again be revised at short notice. The reason for this is a turquoise-green amendment that was introduced in the parliamentary health committee on Monday. This will be voted on in the plenary session of the National Council on Wednesday
It is decided that in future vaccinations must be entered and added to the new, electronic vaccination certificate. On the other hand, there is still no green light for people after corona vaccinations to have privileged access to hairdressers or cultural activities.
However, a working group will be set up with the federal states and social security funds, the “Wiener Zeitung” in the office of Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) explained. The reason for waiting is that virus transmission from vaccinated persons to other people cannot be definitively ruled out for the time being.
“Green vaccination pass” as a door opener
In Israel, which is an international pioneer in terms of the number of vaccinations, there is already a so-called “green vaccination pass”. This practically serves as a door opener for certain activities for vaccinated people. With the new regulation of the Health Telematics Act and the Epidemic Act, which is due to come into force on March 1st, such reliefs will not yet be implemented in Austria.
“It is not yet clear whether the corona vaccinations also protect against transmission. This question must be clarified by science in order to then orient the further procedure accordingly. We are in an international and European exchange here,” explains the Ministry of Health. Similar to the Corona vaccination, Anschober relies on the most uniform possible procedure at EU level: “ The aim is a Europe-wide joint procedure based on reliable scientific knowledge.”
Immediate relief is not considered a priority for a second reason either. So far, around 508,000 people in Austria have been vaccinated against the coronavirus since December 27, of which almost 200,000 have already been vaccinated with two doses. Most of these are residents of nursing homes and health workers, but not the broad mass of the population.
Specifically, this means for the population in Austria that a corona vaccination is not a substitute for a corona test before a visit to the hairdresser. This is also confirmed in the Ministry of Health. People whose corona infection was not more than six months ago also have access.
Registration helps with contact tracking
However, there are also plans in Austria for privileged access for people who have already been vaccinated. That is why a separate working group has already been agreed. This consists of representatives from the Ministry of Health, social security and the federal states. Above all, it should advise on the design of the work process after the mandatory entry of all vaccinations in the electronic vaccination record.
With the mandatory registration of vaccinations, also against the coronavirus, a request by the head of social insurance and chairman of the social insurance institute for traders and farmers, Peter Lehner, is fulfilled. This has already increased the pressure on the Minister of Health, because the entry makes it possible to quickly determine who has already been vaccinated in which regions and population groups. With the change in the law, health providers, e.g. doctors, will be required to enter or add corona vaccinations to the electronic vaccination pass from March 1st.
With the change in the law, the company responsible for the electronic health record, or Elga for short, is obliged to transmit the data stored in the electronic vaccination record in pseudonymised form to the Ministry of Health on a daily basis. This means that the passport is available to the health authorities in the form of a vaccination register and can therefore be used above all to follow up contact persons in the course of corona crisis management.
Specifically, this means that the regional health authorities in the federal states can see whether someone has already been vaccinated or not from contact persons for newly infected people. The same also applies in the event that someone has previously had a corona infection. For both vaccinations and previous infections, the change in law provides for either proof of vaccination or a kind of “confirmation of recovery”, as stated in the reasoning for the application. Both are intended to facilitate the follow-up using contact tracking. District administrative authorities or a vaccinated person (by means of an official signature) should in future also be able to print out such evidence.
Neos have concerns
For the green health spokesman, there are two benefits associated with the change. Families should be able to use the vaccination certificate in the future so that a schoolchild, for example, can save himself the currently necessary Corona self-tests twice a week before class in class. In addition, the free proof of vaccination eliminates the previous costs for a confirmation.
On the other hand, Neos health spokesman Gerald Loacker has a considerable stomachache with the decision on the regulation on Wednesday – specifically with the outsourcing of Elga data to the Ministry of Health and the authorities’ EMS system used for tracking contacts. Above all, he raises concerns about data protection law. All accesses would have to be logged in the Elga system, not in the EMS system. “ The re Hinz and Kunz can access the data,” he says.
Elga GmbH also expresses objections in a current statement that is available to the “Wiener Zeitung”. Accordingly, the multiple storage of data violates the principle of data minimization. Elga or other providers are therefore not allowed to transmit any data “in the event of a legal regulation”, is expressly stated with reference to the decision of the data protection authority on contact tracking in Vienna.
In particular, proof of vaccination should therefore be “generated” by the primary source, that is Elga. The regulation via the EMS system also contradicts the Elga structure that all transactions must be logged. “Unspecified legal terms” such as crisis management would cause problems of interpretation. According to Elga GmbH, it is incorrect to claim that this cannot be solved in any other way. The Ministry of Health, however, emphasizes that the amendment complies with strict data protection regulations.