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Greece’s Over-60’s, Vulnerable Will Get COVID-19 Booster Shots

Αssociated Press

Michalis Vardakis, 73, receives a dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, outside the church of the Virgin Mary, during a vaccination roll out, in the town of Archanes, on the island of Crete, Greece, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

ATHENS - People in Greece over 60 and with compromised immune systems will start getting booster shots against COVID-19 starting in mid-September as antibodies can lower after only a few months.

Some 285,000 people will be eligible for either a third shot of most versions or a second for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson version from the United States as fears have mounted of a fourth wave spreading because of anti-vaxxers and people defying health measures.

The emvolio.gov.gr platform for booking vaccine appointments will open for the groups on Sept. 14, the President of the National Vaccination Committee, Maria Theodoridou, and General Secretary for Primary Healthcare, Marios Themistokleous, told the Health Ministry’s daily public briefing. Booster shots, Theodoridou said, will also be administered to people residing in nursing homes as well as to over-60-year-olds who were among the first to get shots late 2020.

“Professionals who have a high exposure to the virus and patients with other chronic illnesses will follow,” she said, reported Kathimerini. “A sufficient number of vaccines and the preparedness of the system will help the campaign,” she added.

She pointed to a jump in cases for those over 12 years old as the virus, on the back of the especially-contagious Delta Variant, has begun reaching down into lower age groups. She said parents should get their children vaccinated before the school year begins Sept. 13 as the New Democracy government - which said there would be only classes in schools and not online again - also said schools could close if there breakouts again.

Theodoridou said the vaccines will protect children over 12 so that they can interact with each other and classmates without worry although there’s a difference of opinion over whether they should also wear masks.

She added that vaccinations can help prevent formation of mutations. Theodoridou also encouraged pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies by getting vaccinated, insisting that it’s safe and will protect fetuses too from infection.

The Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has stalled far short of the 70 percent benchmark of the population of 10.7 million - or 7.49 million people - who need to be fully vaccinated to slow the resurging pandemic. Themistokleous said that 5.78 million people - some 1.71 million short - had completed their vaccinations as of Sept. 6, which means that only 55 percent is protected, 64.2 percent of them adults. The European Union average is 70 percent.