Unlike Greece, Cyprus' government said everyone will be inoculated against COVID-19 if a vaccination is discovered, although unlikely this year with fears of a second wave because of widespread defiance of health protocols in the United States and elsewhere.
Cyprus already has put in an order of 1.2 million doses of any COVID-19, made to the European Union which could be in competition with the US and other countries for supplies if there isn't enough to go around.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said getting the shot will be compulsory although it wasn't said how that would be enforced. Greece's New Democracy said it would be voluntary, without explaining why that wouldn't create a window for the virus to spread among people who don't get the vaccine.
Interviewed on ANT1 TV Ioannou said the order is enough to share with the Turkish-Cypriots unlawfully occupying the northern third of the island since a 194 invasion, although the legitimate government, a member of the EU, has no jurisdiction there.
If Nicosia initially receives less than the 1.2 million required, some groups would be prioritized – according to vulnerability, age and other factors he said, made available to those with the highest risk, especially the elderly and those with underlying conditions.
He said that vaccinating two-thirds of the population would suffice to protect the island from the virus without explaining why it wouldn't spread as health experts said every case has to be tracked and traced.
“Once 60-70% of the population has been vaccinated, according to statistical models, it would essentially be equivalent to having the entire population vaccinated,” said Ioannou, although there's no timetable for a vaccine.
“In the best-case scenario, the earliest we will have the vaccine in our hands would be towards the end of 2020 or early 2021,” a record for producing it with many of the world's top doctors and scientists working on it.
Cyprus' order, said The Financial Mirror, would be placed for a vaccine that the United Kingdom's Oxford University is working on with pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, through the EU, although distribution plans haven't been set.
Nicosia is part of an EU Commission collective which is in negotiations with AstraZeneca to acquire quantities of the vaccine to cover the needs of the whole bloc.
Ioannou said wariness is growing along with the number of cases as people become complacent and don't follow health measures, such as wearing masks and keeping social distancing of at least two meters (6.56 feet) apart.
“The protocols and measures currently in place will be around until the vaccine is available,” he said but said the government isn't ready to make wearing masks mandatory, unlike the vaccine.
“If people abide by and follow the current measures, they will avoid any stricter measures in the future,” he also said.