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Coronavirus Infoline

General information on transmission, symptoms, prevention and vaccination (7 days a week, 0 to 24 h) on 0800 555 621.

Attention. If you have symptoms or fear to be ill, please stay at home and dial 1450 or contact your family doctor.

FAQ Coronavirus

Vaccination

In Austria, the Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) records all suspected adverse reactions to medicinal products and vaccines that have occurred in Austria and are reported by health care professionals or patients. In Austria, patients and their relatives can voluntarily report adverse drug reactions directly to the BASG. Physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals are required by law to report adverse drug reactions. After processing and evaluation, the data are forwarded to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in accordance with the applicable European laws and directives. The data are thus available to the national drug regulatory authorities responsible for these approvals and also to all other European drug regulatory authorities for ongoing safety monitoring. In close cooperation with the EU network of authorities, the risk-benefit balance of all approved medicines is monitored on an ongoing basis. The Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) analyzes all aspects relevant to the safety and efficacy of a vaccine. If necessary, new side effects are added to the technical information and directions for use of the respective vaccine or other measures are set to ensure safe and effective use.

According to the recommendations of the National Vaccination Committee, paracetamol can be taken as a preventive measure about 6 hours after vaccination - if necessary repeated every 6 hours for the following 24 to 48 hours. It can be assumed that the effect of the vaccination is not impaired. In any case, please discuss with your doctor whether taking paracetamol is suitable for your individual situation.

According to current knowledge, vaccination offers individual protection against contracting COVID-19. The influence of vaccination on the transmission of Sars-CoV-2 is the subject of many studies. Transmission of the virus appears to be reduced, although the extent is not entirely clear. However, it must be assumed that people who become PCR positive after contact with SARS-CoV-2 despite vaccination also shed virus in the process and are infectious.

Therefore, even after full vaccination, it is recommended to carry out preventive measures to protect others: regular hand washing, keeping distance, mask (if keeping distance is not possible), pay attention to health status and avoid contact if you feel sick.

Currently, SARS-CoV-2 is thought to change more slowly than influenza viruses, but this cannot be predicted in concrete terms. Because of these slower changes, the first vaccinations also provide protection against the new variant and its sublines, especially against severe courses. The changes (mutations) in the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being closely monitored to identify in time whether an adjustment of the vaccine is necessary.

The third vaccination is currently approved for both mRNA vaccines (Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna).

The National Immunization Panel (NIG) recommends a 3rd vaccination starting 5 months after the 2nd vaccination - with Pfizer BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine starting at 5 years of age, and with Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine only starting at 30 years of age.

Approved for third vaccination starting 6 months after 2nd vaccination for each product series: i.e., 1st, 2nd, and 3rd vaccination each with the same vaccine. All other combinations for a third vaccination do not comply with the approval and are therefore "off-label applications".

The following "off-label uses" are recommended by the NIG:

  • In persons younger than 30 years, use of Pfizer BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for the 3rd vaccination instead of Moderna (due to an increased incidence of myocarditis in younger persons).
  • For 2 doses of Janssen or 1st dose of Janssen and 2nd dose of Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna, 3rd vaccination with mRNA vaccine only (Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna, for Moderna over age 30)
  • After 2 vaccinations with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, 3rd vaccination with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna) 6 months after 2nd vaccination (respecting age limit).

The booster vaccination is another vaccination after the basic immunization consisting of 3 vaccinations and helps to maintain the protection built up. The National Immunization Panel recommends that all people 80 years of age and older get a booster vaccination (4th dose) at least 6 months after the 3rd vaccination. At-risk individuals and those between 65 and 79 years of age may also receive a booster vaccination.

There are separate recommendations for convalescents and persons with weakened immune systems.

More information in the recommendations for use of the National Vaccination Panel.

No, no vaccination guarantees one hundred percent protection. Nor can any other drug guarantee one hundred percent effectiveness for every patient.

With vaccines, local reactions at the injection site (e.g., redness, pain) and general reactions such as headache, aching limbs, chills, increased temperature, fever, and malaise are common. While this can be unpleasant, these vaccine reactions are usually harmless and disappear after a few days. They show that the human immune system is responding to the vaccine.

Very rare side effects cannot be detected until a vaccine is licensed and used in a much larger population than is possible in clinical trials. Therefore, vaccines continue to be monitored after approval. Manufacturers may be required to conduct long-term studies after approval, the results of which they must also submit to the authorities. However, no drug or vaccine can guarantee absolute safety.

Not every sign of illness that occurs in temporal connection with a vaccination is also due to the vaccination. When vaccines are administered to a large number of people, the probability increases that after a vaccination, symptoms occur that were not triggered by the vaccination but by other causes, such as another illness that occurred at the same time or shortly thereafter.

Suspected adverse reactions can be reported to the Federal Office for Safety and Health (BASG) in Austria. The BASG records every report, whether it is a side effect or a vaccination reaction, and publishes reports at regular intervals. The suspected adverse reactions reported to date correspond in both type and frequency to those expected from the pivotal studies.

The report on reports of suspected adverse reactions is available for download on the website of the Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG).

The list of possible side effects can be found in the instructions for use of the vaccines.

Yes, in very rare cases, approvals for vaccines are revoked again if the data situation or the benefit-risk ratio changes significantly (e.g., previously unknown and severe side effects occur frequently). If the approval is revoked, the vaccine must be withdrawn from the market immediately.

A manufacturer whose vaccine has already been approved in a non-EU country can also apply to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for approval. The prerequisite for this is that the manufacturer has a company headquarters in the EU. Where the vaccine is produced is irrelevant. In any case, the same strict criteria regarding quality, efficacy and safety apply for approval by the EMA and for monitoring of use as for vaccines first approved in the EU.

Transmission

Viruses are constantly changing through mutation. Studies of the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have shown that such a mutation occurs about every two weeks. Most newly occurring mutations do not affect the spread of the virus or the severity of the disease. However, some mutations or combinations of mutations may give the virus an advantage, such as increased transmissibility or the ability to evade the host immune response. Other mutations, in turn, may have an impact on the severity of the disease.

These mutations give rise to different variants of the virus. Currently, the WHO lists the following Variants of Concern: delta variant B.1.617.2; omicron variant B.1.1.529 and its sublines BA. 1, BA. 2, BA. 3, BA. 4, BA. 5 as well as lineages. These variants are more easily transmissible and have become the predominant SARS-CoV-2 virus type in some regions of the world. Currently, the omicron variant dominates the infection events in Austria.

In epidemiology, a cluster is defined as an accumulation of cases within a certain period of time in a certain region. If there is a temporal and spatial correlation, two or more cases are considered a cluster.

Asymptomatically infected persons are those who carry the virus but do not show any symptoms during the entire course of the disease. It is now assumed that around 20 (to 25) percent of infected persons fall into this group.

A distinction must be made between so-called pre-symptomatically infected persons, i.e. infected persons who have NO symptoms, but who develop symptoms later on: they are already contagious (= infectious) one to two days before the onset of symptoms.

It is currently believed that transmission of the virus also occurs through asymptomatic cases (who never develop symptoms). The extent to which this occurs is not yet fully understood.

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurs mainly via droplets, e.g., when speaking loudly, singing loudly, or coughing or sneezing. In certain situations, transmission can also occur via the even smaller aerosols (finest airborne liquid particles), which can remain suspended in the air for a longer period of time, e.g. when many people congregate in insufficiently ventilated indoor spaces.

Studies have shown that about 20 percent of infected individuals cause the majority of infections. These individuals are also known as "superspreaders" and have a higher than average tendency to infect a large number of other people.

A superspreading event is one in which one person infects significantly more people than is the case on average. Here, the setting, i.e., place and time of infection (closed rooms, poor ventilation, activities such as loud talking, shouting or singing) seems to play a major role in the development of a superspreading event.

Children of any age can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and thus also transmit the virus. However, cases in younger children appear less likely to result in onward transmission than cases in older children and adults.

Can children become severely ill from SARS-CoV-2?

According to current data, children have a lower probability of severe disease or fatal outcome than all other age groups. However, severe courses may also occur in children (<18 years), especially if pre-existing conditions (asthma, diabetes...) are present.

Despite the predominantly asymptomatic and mild disease in children and adolescents, long-COVID also exists in this age group. This manifests in the same symptoms as in adults. In association with SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of the severity of the course, rare cases of a severe inflammatory immune reaction ("multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, MIS-C") have also been observed. This is a highly acute clinical picture that can occur within 4 weeks of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Even in children and adolescents, vaccination offers good protection against a severe COVID-19 course and (late) consequences.

No: Meat, sausage, eggs, fruit, vegetables, water, etc. do not pose a risk from the novel coronavirus. There is currently no evidence that humans have been infected with the novel coronavirus through conventional foods or through drinking water/pipe water or surface water. There are also no known reports of foodborne infections for other coronaviruses. However, consumption of raw meat or blood from wild animals such as snakes, bats, etc. is strongly discouraged.

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Questions and answers on the topic

European Food Safety Authority

Various domestic, pet, and wild/zoo animal species, such as felines (including large cats such as tigers, lions, etc.), dogs, ferrets, tanuki, deer, golden hamsters, rabbits, and various primates (e.g., gorillas) can become infected with the COVID-19 pathogen SARS-CoV-2. In all known cases of natural infection, it most likely occurred via infected humans. Poultry, horses, cattle, and pigs may not be infected or may be very inefficiently infected. The severity of clinical signs ranges from subclinical (i.e., no signs of disease) to mostly mild clinical signs (primarily felines and ferrets as well as minks), depending on the species affected; according to current knowledge, the animals play no role in the spread of infection. An exception is mink from commercial fur farms, where infection of exposed humans from mink has been documented.

Pending information to the contrary, despite the emergence of new viral variants, pets and domestic animals are not expected to play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, regardless of the current situation, basic hygiene rules, such as thorough hand washing with soap after contact with animals or their excreta, should be observed. If pet owners themselves are confirmed to be infected with this virus, it is advisable to minimize contact with susceptible pets such as cats and dogs (just as you would with human roommates or family members), wear a face mask (FFP2 mask), and wash your hands thoroughly with soap before and after any contact with your pet. If possible, care of the animal should be given priority by a healthy (uninfected) person.

Based on current knowledge, it is not necessary or advisable to separate from pets in the event of either human or animal infection.

 

Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut: What is the role of domestic and farm animals?

World Animal Health Organization (OIE): FAQ Coronavirus and Pets.

There is no evidence that commercial goods (e.g. toys) pose a risk. Exactly how long the virus remains on surfaces is unclear at this time. If you cough or sneeze into your hand and then touch a doorknob or handle your phone and pass it around, the virus can theoretically be transmitted that way. Due to the low environmental stability of coronaviruses, it is unlikely, based on current knowledge, that imported goods could be the source of infection.

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Questions and answers on the topic

Disease

Human-to-human transmission represents the most important route of infection. In addition to respiratory tract secretions and saliva, excretions (urine, stool) and body fluids (blood, pleural fluid, joint punctates, etc.) could also be infectious. Talking, sneezing, coughing (droplet infection) or via excretion of minute particles (aerosols) in closed rooms without air circulation represent the main modes of transmission.

An infected person can infect others as early as 1 to 2 days before the onset of symptoms. Transmission by persons who were infected but did not become ill at all (asymptomatic transmission) is also possible.

The latest variants of the virus (omicron and sublines) have an even higher contagiousness to the previous ones, as they are better able to evade the immune protection of the human body.

The incubation period (time between infection and onset of disease symptoms) was up to 14 days for the virus variants observed so far, on average 5 to 6 days. With the Omikron variant, the incubation period is shorter, in most cases three days.

SARS-CoV-2 infections are primarily characterized by the following symptoms: Fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. There may also be loss of smell and taste, diarrhea and vomiting. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

There are also mild courses (symptoms of a cold) and infections without symptoms. Approximately ¼ (up to one third) of Sars-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic.

Some immunity from infection and recovery is provided, but not 100%. How long and to what extent this re-infection protection lasts over longer periods of time is currently not conclusively clarified and depends on the circulating virus variants. With Omikron (and subvariants), reinfections have occurred and continue to occur.

Data on immunity after very mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 courses is still very limited. However, extensive immunologic evidence and a growing body of epidemiologic evidence suggest that vaccination after infection significantly increases protection and further reduces the risk of reinfection.

In mild to moderate disease, the possibility of infecting others is significantly reduced after more than ten days since the onset of signs of illness while remaining symptom-free. In severe illnesses and in the presence of immunodeficiency, affected individuals may remain contagious for significantly longer.

SARS-CoV-2 is currently thought to have a mortality rate of approximately 0.3 percent of all infected persons. However, mortality varies greatly from country to country in some cases and varies by age group. For those under 25 years of age, mortality is almost zero, for those 25 to 50 years of age it is less than 0.1 percent, and for those over 65 years of age it ranges from 1 to 10 percent, depending on risk factors, and in exceptional cases it is even higher.

Other risk factors for a severe course are pre-existing diseases such as diabetes and cancer. The danger of the virus also depends on the variant and the immune protection. In the first months of this year, there were fewer admissions to intensive care units, which can be attributed in part to lower virulence of the omicron variant. Another significant factor is the high proportion of vaccinated persons of over 82% in the 65+ age group.

In general, due to the physiological and immunological changes during pregnancy, an increased susceptibility to infections cannot be completely excluded.

According to current knowledge, more than 85% of pregnant women with COVID-19 exhibit only mild or moderate symptoms, similar to a cold or flu-like infection. Severe courses with the occurrence of pneumonia or other complications requiring hospital care are rare, according to current knowledge. However, the probability of admission to an intensive care unit and the need for ventilation is increased by a factor of 2-3 in pregnant women with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women with COVID-19, which is roughly comparable to the situation with influenza.

Austrian Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

If there are no other medical reasons, a normal birth process is possible. Breastfeeding is also possible in principle, because it is unlikely that the virus is transmitted via breast milk.

Consequential symptoms are relatively common in COVID-19 and have come to be referred to as post-covid syndrome or long-covid. Fatigue, cognitive impairment, and shortness of breath are the main symptoms, but over 200 different symptoms have been described in affected individuals and can last for many months.

Living with Long-COVID can be difficult. Contact points have already been established that can help sufferers. The first point of contact for Long COVID sufferers is primary care. If you suspect you have Long COVID, contact your primary care physician.

Treatment of mildly symptomatic patients without risk factors for a severe course is basically symptomatic, i.e., by alleviating the symptoms of the disease, e.g., by administering antipyretics.

Several pharmaceutical agents have already been approved for early treatment of COVID-19 in high-risk patients in Europe and are being used in the inpatient setting. These antiviral therapeutic approaches (including monoclonal antibodies) aim to prevent replication of the virus (directly or indirectly). There are also several treatment options for hospitalized individuals with a severe COVID-19 course, including immunomodulatory therapy with corticosteroids.

The use of antibiotics is discouraged (unless a bacterial infection is present) because antibiotics are not effective against SARS-CoV-2.

Prevention

The following measures are recommended:

  • Vaccination
  • Wash your hands several times a day with soap and water or an alcohol-based disinfectant
  • Wear masks in everyday life
  • Avoid direct contact with other people (minimum distance 2 m)
  • Ventilate indoor rooms regularly

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) sees the use of face masks as a way to reduce the spread of the virus in the community, especially by infected people who have not (yet) developed symptoms and who do not know they are infected.

ECDC: Using face masks in the community - Reducing COVID-19 transmission from potentially asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people through the use of face masks

Coronaviruses are very sensitive to environmental influences. Under laboratory conditions, they can survive for hours to several days on smooth surfaces. However, there is no evidence that door handles, grab bars, bank bills or similar have played an important role in transmission to date; direct personal contact (longer than 15 minutes, distance less than 2 meters) currently represents the most significant transmission route.


Further information

Current situation in Austria

Information on the situation in Austria can be found here.

Current measures

Information from the Ministry of Health on the measures currently in force can be found here

Coronavirus information of the federal states

Information on labor law, travel law, schools, agriculture and food production, support

Chamber of Labor and ÖGB: Homepage for questions concerning labor law

Association for Consumer Information: Questions about traveling

Chamber of Commerce: Coronavirus Infopoint

Ministry of Education: Information and recommendations for schools and parents

Federal Ministry of Labor, Family and Youth: FAQ on labor law issues (short-time work), effects on families, special care time

Last updated: 29.11.2022

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