“The vaccine mandate won’t immediately help us break the omicron wave, but that wasn’t the goal of this law,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said Thursday before parliament’s upper house approved the plan. “The vaccine mandate should help protect us from the next waves, and above all from the next variants.”

Austria is about to become the first country in Europe to require most adults to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but few other nations appear likely to join it as many turn their attention to loosening restrictions, AP reports.

The mandate for people 18 and over take effect on Saturday, 2 1/2 months after the plan was first announced amid a surge of delta-variant cases that sent the country into a since-lifted lockdown.

It comes into force as nations across Europe and beyond have seen infections reach unprecedented levels because of the omicron variant, which is highly contagious but generally causes milder illness and already appears to be leveling off or dropping in some places.

While the sense of urgency in Austria has largely evaporated, officials say the mandate still makes sense.

“The vaccine mandate won’t immediately help us break the omicron wave, but that wasn’t the goal of this law,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said Thursday before parliament’s upper house approved the plan. “The vaccine mandate should help protect us from the next waves, and above all from the next variants.”

It will be awhile before Austria’s 8.9 million people notice any practical change. And it isn’t clear when or even if the toughest part of the plan will take effect.

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