How it Feels to Be Unvaccinated in Austria as the Government Turns the Screws

I’m going to say it. I’m unvaccinated. There. I said it. That feels better.

I’m saying this now because for the last year in Austria, where I live, the hypocrisy, discrimination, and name-calling have risen to levels that we haven’t seen in a long, long time, certainly in my memory. That I choose not to get vaccinated is simply my choice and that’s it. I have never once suggested that anybody else should follow suit. I am writing this now because I am simply tired of repeating myself on a daily basis; tired of having to defend my decisions to people for whom my decisions are no business whatsoever. I am saying this now because:

  1. I routinely get reminded of the number of people in hospital. It’s a big number. There is no denying that. But, unless you are able to break that number down into the number of people in hospitals actually being treated for Covid and not something else, then that number means nothing. If you are able to break that number down into the number of people who are actually being treated for Covid, then try breaking it down further into the number who are obese, have pre-existing conditions and are of a certain age group. If you are unable to do any of the above, at least have some kind of empirical comparison such as the number of people in ICUs in 2018, 2016, 2012 etc. If you cannot do any of these, do not quote me a random set of digits which serve no purpose whatsoever other than to serve as fear propaganda.
  2. On a daily basis I get hit with the fact that the numbers of people getting infected with Omicron have surged. That’s a fact. There is no denying it. What is also a fact is that both the vaccinated and unvaccinated are catching it. Couple that with the fact that Pfizer is developing an Omicron vaccine, then you are getting closer to understanding my reason for not going out and getting the current vaccines which are available, as even Pfizer is tacitly acknowledging they’re not up to the job.
  3. Pfizer. How quickly we forget that the company which has a monopoly on vaccines in the European Union is also the same company which was forced to pay what is still the largest criminal fine in history. Couple that with the emerging news that the president of the European Commission was in a text message exchange with a head of Pfizer before sealing the deal which saw the European Union pay over €30 billion more than they should have for a drug. Couple that with the fact that many contracts between governments and Pfizer have dozens if not hundreds of pages redacted. Couple that again with Pfizer´s move to indemnify themselves from potential lawsuits resulting from vaccine complications, and then you are getting close to understanding my reason for not trusting this particular pharmaceutical company.
  4. The Greater Good. While the sentiment may be well-intended, the ‘greater good’ seems to surface only very selectively. Where was the ‘greater good’ in 2018 when the same ICUs were full of flu patients? Were we all railroading each other into getting flu shots? Where was the ‘greater good’ in 2009 when swine flu appeared? Did we don masks, close schools and chase down swine flu vaccines? Not that we should have done, of course.

In Austria, according to a recent survey, the vast majority of the population believe their Government to be corrupt. We have had four Prime Ministers in one year. In Vienna, if I have a negative test and no symptoms, I am still not allowed into a shoe shop to buy my three-year-old son a pair of shoes because the Government has decided that shoes are nonessential items. In fact, an unvaccinated person has not been granted access to hairdressers, cafés, bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and so on since late October. In order to continue earning a living, an unvaccinated person has had to provide a negative test every 48 hours. In the meantime, the vaccinated, who are not required to test, even if they have symptoms, have had free rein. And the numbers have continued to rise, and the unvaccinated blamed.

What is more, the Government has now announced a €1.4 billion lottery scheme to reward people for getting vaccinated with a vaccine that seemingly has only 30% efficacy against the current variant. These are the same taxpayers who were locked down on four separate occasions because hospitals could not cope with the numbers. So instead of helping the nurses and doctors, funding more beds, providing after-school programmes that were cancelled in the last two years, the money is going to the individual to be used as vouchers as they wish.

This is also a country that has passed a law to force people to get the aforementioned vaccines. It also requires people entering the country to show proof of a booster. Evidence has already shown that the booster is only effective against infection for 10 weeks at best. Yet without two vaccinations and a booster, you’re not allowed to have a haircut in Austria. The mandate for the vaccine comes into effect at precisely the same time as other European nations are dropping most, if not all of their measures, and fines will begin to be issued at the same time Pfizer rolls out the Omicron vaccine. At the time of writing, the legislation has been passed in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. It still needs to get through the Constitutional Court which, typically, can take up to four months. It remains unclear how penalties are going to be enforced and by whom. What is clear is that these penalties cannot be realistically implemented by the middle of March as suggested by the Chancellor. The Government has conceded that it hopes the threat of such measures will achieve a high enough vaccine take-up that such enforcement will then be redundant – a desperate tactic to force a vaccination on a population that, even with these penalties and threats, is reluctant to accept it.

I am writing this now because I am tired of having to explain myself. I am tired of having to defend my choices. I am tired of being labelled selfish. I am tired of being labelled a conspiracy theorist. None of what I have written above are theories. They are facts. I am tired of being labelled a Right-wing nut job. If anything, I lean to the Left. But again, that is nobody’s business.

I am writing this to explain that the situation we are all going through is not simply black-and-white. I cannot recall a time when we have been so divided as a society. I blame social media for that and I blame mainstream media and their fear agenda. When people cast a vote nowadays, you get a sticker and post a picture online. When you get vaccinated, you change your Facebook profile picture, announce it to your Instagram followers, post a photo of the Band-Aid on the upper arm. In return you get some likes and some clapping hand emojis. And that’s it. Suddenly you are socially protected. Nobody can call you names or accuse you of being selfish or not contributing to the greater good. And whether deep down you have your suspicions, or regrets, or you secretly agree with people like me taking a stand against a totalitarian response to a virus, you can at least take some comfort in knowing you had a choice and chose as you deemed appropriate. I respect your decision. Maybe it’s time to afford others the same respect. In the meantime, shine a light on the Austrian Government because it is setting a very, very dangerous precedent.

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November 2022
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