Last week in one of the first such tragedies in history, a child in Austria contracted a new coronavirus, and although the exact origins are still unknown, the state of Austria decided to act. Within 24 hours of the coronavirus being identified, schools and the public health facilities were under blanket quarantine for all three grade levels. The only exception to the quarantine was admission to private child care or schools with kindergartens.
Schools were closed and children and teachers remained under quarantine for more than a week. On Monday, April 2, the state sought permission from the court to lift the vaccination rules, ruling that only those that do not get vaccinated are subject to the stipulations. It issued a 24-hour notice. On the day, the court approved the mandatory vaccination rules for public schools and kindergartens in Austria. The ruling still does not apply to children under the age of two, who can be inoculated at a later time.
The ruling that the state has clearly stated is devastating. Since 2010, 70 deaths from the coronavirus have been reported to the World Health Organization. In the last week alone, there have been 14 new cases in Sweden, Germany, Israel, and Romania, reported by the organization. As the World Health Organization states, “No vaccine exists for [Coronavirus].”
Of all countries, Italy has seen the highest number of cases in recent years. Worldwide, more than 300 deaths have been reported from the virus since it was identified in 2012. In the U.S., an estimated 440 cases have been reported since 2012.
In some circumstances, viral isolation can be useful. Infected individuals may need to remain in isolation until they are well or symptomatic. However, in cases of an outbreak like this, it is harmful for families and students to remain indoors for any period of time, especially during a surge in cases. Under its mandatory vaccination rules, the state does not know when it has spent its allotted funds, and does not seem to know what’s next for the virus.
The practices of the Public Health Ministry were addressed in some detail in the Austrian media this week. There are questions about whether their capacity to respond to the outbreaks is actually cutting costs and freeing up funding for vaccination. One specialist is quoted as saying that public policy practitioners for young children need a proper methodology for coordination, “and be equipped with systems that can analyze their situation efficiently.”
If not up to the task to manage this outbreak, then that’s perhaps the reason the State of Austria is being pressured to reach out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, which are funded by the federal government.
Note: A previous version of this article did not make clear that in this case the mandatory vaccination rules also affect children under two years old.