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Austria to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for most adults and fine the non-compliant

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Austria's parliament on Thursday voted to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate requiring people ages 18 and older to get vaccinated or face fines, according to the Associated Press, which noted that the mandate will take effect in February.

Reuters reported that the country's lower house of parliament approved the bill which would also need to clear the upper house and secure the president's signature, though the outlet said that those additional moves would in large part represent formalities.

The sweeping vaccine mandate for adults does include several exceptions, including for pregnant women, individuals who cannot get the jab due to medical reasons, and people who have recuperated from the illness within the prior six months, according to the AP. Those who recently had the illness are exempt for 180 days from when they had their first positive PCR COVID-19 test, CNN reported.

Around 72% of the nation's population is fully vaccinated against the illness.

CNN noted that while the law takes effect on Feb. 1, officials will not start checking for compliance until March 15.

Unvaccinated people will face significant financial consequences for failing to comply with the mandate.

"Making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory is an emergency exit ... out of the constant restrictions on our personal and fundamental rights like the ones we have had to endure in the past two years," Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who leads the opposition Social Democrats, told Parliament, according to Reuters.

"This vaccine mandate strips people of their rights. In one move, millions of Austrians will be downgraded," Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl said, according to Reuters. The AP quoted Kickl describing the law as "nothing more than a huge blow to the freedoms of Austrians."

In the U.S., vaccine mandates proposed and/or instituted by the public and private sectors have proven to be controversial, with many Americans decrying them as unacceptable infringements of individual liberty.

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