ATHENS – After offering the young 150-euro ($176.63) bonus cards to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Greece's New Democracy government now is turning toward paying doctors and pharmacists to give them.
They will be paid 10 euros ($11.78) for every vaccination appointment that is made, said Kathimerini, 20 euros ($23.55) for every shot given in their offices or pharmacies, and 50 euros ($58.88) for at-home shots for those who can't leave.
The announcement was made by Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias as the so-called Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has stalled, with little less than half the population of 10.7 million fully protected.
That's far less than the 70 percent health officials said is the benchmark to beat back the pandemic, the campaign running into such staunch resistance from anti-vaxxers that the government is making shots mandatory for all health care workers.
But tourism workers aren't required to get the shots despite the rising number of cases on islands – where tourists aren't allowed to go unless they are vaccinated, have a negative PCR test or proof they're recovered from the deadly Coronavirus.
The highly-contagious Delta Variant now makes up half the cases in Greece that are nearing the 470,000 mark, and with 12,875 dead and many people ignoring what's left of measures from a lenient lockdown that's been essentially forgotten.
The move comes as authorities said the virus that once primarily targeted the elderly and those with multiple or underlying conditions is now spreading fastest in the 40-60 year-old group, after hitting those 20-25.
Data from Professor of Infectious Diseases at Athens University and member of the Health Ministry’s committee of experts Vana Papaevangelou said the 40-60 sector now makes up 30 percent of cases, the paper reported.
There were 3,163 cases in that bracket from July 12-18, a jump of 75 percent from a week earlier as the more than 1 1/2-year-old pandemic lingers because of anti-vaxxers and people who defied health restrictions and spread the virus.
She said hospitalizations that had fallen before the government opened the country to tourists and rolled back many health measures have jumped to more than 1,000 after several weeks, putting pressure on the health system.
Increased admissions are seen to be directly related to the relatively low vaccination rate of this age group, which is under 65 percent, she added.
“This means that one in three people aged 40 to 60 has not been vaccinated. And they are the parents of people who are now on the islands and will be returning with the virus in their luggage,” increasing the risk.
“There is no excuse for postponing vaccination until September,” she noted – when it could become mandatory – as she said Greece is in “a race to vaccinate as many people as possible now,” which has faltered.
She said that 99 percent of patients on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) aren't vaccinated or only partly vaccinated with one of two shots of most versions apart from the single-shot Johnson & Johnson.
“Only 42 of the 4,600 patients who were intubated from last February until a week ago were vaccinated,” Papaevangelou said. While it's rare for someone who's vaccinated to contract the virus – three doctors at a hospital in western Greece did – those who are inoculated are at infinitesimal risk of persishing.
After daily cases earlier in the summer fell to as low as the 300 mark, they have soared again and there were 2,604 on July 22, including 11 tourists who are supposed to be free of COVID-19.