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For weeks, vaccine sceptics have been protesting in major cities in Austria

Austria offers municipalities a premium if their vaccination rate is higher than 80%

Austria offers municipalities a premium if their vaccination rate is higher than 80%

The contentious policy could lead to a deepening financial divide between communities

As Austria ratified the universal vaccine mandate on Thursday amid a wave of daily protests in major cities across the country, another piece of controversial legislation made its way through parliament. The new law calls for municipalities with higher vaccination rates to receive a major fiscal stimulus to their budget.

Municipalities will receive a premium based on population and vaccination rates above 80% - the higher the percentage, the higher the premium. An example: a municipality with 3,000 inhabitants would get 30,000 euros if they have a population that is 80% vaccinated. If the number is 85%, the premium is doubled, i.e. 60,000 euros. If the number is 90%, the figure is doubled again, reaching 120,000 euros.

The move could convince more people to get the shot

According to the ORF, President of the Austrian Municipalities Association Alfred Riedl believes that this could further motivate the population to get vaccinated, as it can have a direct effect on the municipal budget.

This could, however, also lead to a very pronounced fiscal disparity between communities and prevent municipalities from accessing funds they desperately need to boost vaccination. The sentiment was echoed by the mayor of Ebreichsdorf, Wolfgang Kocevar, who said that communities need real financial support rather than vaccine charity. He continued by asking what a mayor could do to convince a vaccination sceptic to get the jab?

Currently, there is a disparity in vaccination rates between the eastern and western parts of Austria. The overall vaccination rate is around 75%, with the federal state Burgenland having the highest vaccination rate at 77.7%. The lowest is in Carinthia, at 68.7%.

Austria’s vaccination lottery

Indeed, the new budget premium scheme seems to mimic the Austrian vaccination lottery. Appealing to an odd set of constituents, the federal government will hand out a 500-euro voucher to every tenth vaccinated person. Vaccinated in this case means that citizens will be eligible to win a voucher every time they get a dose, meaning that potentially they can win the voucher three times.

This is not a cheap measure either, as the vaccination lottery will cost the government 1 billion euros. According to Chancellor Karl Nehammer, the lottery will reward people who are already vaccinated while providing an incentive for everyone else.  

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