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Greece Readies for First COVID-19 Vaccines, Seen Before New Year

Αssociated Press

Medical personnel transfer a COVID-19 patient from a state to a private clinic which has been appropriated, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Achilleas Chiras)

ATHENS – Greeks who are in the front line of dealing with COVID-19 or the most susceptible to the Coronavirus are supposed to get the first vaccines that could arrive by the year's end as the pandemic still rages.

Preparations were already being made for how to distribute the inoculations with the National Health System (ESY) working with the Health Ministry to identify hospital and medical staff workers as among the first recipients.

First to get the shots will be nurses, health visitors and midwives but the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees demanded that hospital staff not be transferred to the vaccination centers because of shortages, said Kathimerini.

Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis said Greece will procure 14 special deep freezer refrigerators, of which seven have already been received and the remaining seven are expected within the week because the vaccines must be stored, through several travel points, at deep cold temperatures.

A second wave of the Coronavirus rolled over the country after Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had delayed too long before bringing a second lockdown, with hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU's) almost overwhelmed.

The vaccines could also be available to citizens before the end of the year, said government spokesman Stelios Petsas, as it looks like the lockdown, already extended a week to Dec. 7, could stay in force until near Christmas.

Speaking on Mega TV, Petsas said that the government’s vaccination program is anticipated to be completed by late June of 2021 and will launch a nationwide campaign to fight misconceptions about the vaccine and whether it's safe after a survey showed as many as third of Greeks won't take it.

The number of COVID-19 cases jumped by 1,044 on Nov. 30 with another 111 deaths bringing that grim toll to 2,517 and climbing.

Speaking on SKAI TV, Manolis Dermitzakis, Professor of Genetics at the University of Geneva, said with the lockdown not slowing the spread that reopening retail stores for Christmas should be ruled out as of now.