ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' decision to require health are workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has seen resistance, some 10,000 still refusing, although they face suspension and having their jobs filled by temporary replacements.
That could prove difficult, said Kathimerini, if not enough qualified replacements can be found, reportedly to be given three-month contracts although the staff suspended will be unable to work for as long as the pandemic lasts.
Despite seeing people die before them, at one point – including doctors – some 26,000 health care workers rejected being inoculated with vaccines that have saved lives and held down the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and people needed to be put on ventilators in Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
Mitsotakis hesitated for months about giving the order for them to be vaccinated but made the move after the country-wide scheme has stalled with just under 50 percent fully vaccinated, far short of the 70 percent needed to slow the pandemic.
“Some who were skeptical or afraid will go get vaccinated now. However, the biggest trend at the moment seems to be angry health workers who say that they will not get the vaccine and do not care about the consequences,” the President of the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees, Michalis Yiannakos, told the paper.
“We believe that mandatory vaccinations are a mistake on the part of the government and may even slow down the vaccination program,” he added, although people refusing to take shots are pointing to health care workers to support their decision.
“We say everyone should be vaccinated, but people need to be convinced,” he said, adding that he believes the relevant provisions “cannot stand up in court,” although the government has the authority to order mandatory shots to protect the public health.
Anti-vaxxers doubt the safety and efficacy of the vaccinations although they work and some believe it's an international conspiracy by governments and pharmaceutical companies to alter their DNA or that the Coronavirus is a hoax.
Health care workers who continue to refuse to be vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave and also lose their social security health insurance.
The legislation will take effect on August 16 for workers at nursing homes and from September 1 for staff at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
The Parliament controlled by the ruling New Democracy gave the health minister the power to extend mandatory vaccination to other professional sectors in addition to health-related staff, including medical, paramedical, nursing, administrative and support – in private, public and municipal care units for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Although he said he supported vaccinations – and was one of the first to get one, jumping ahead of the elderly – major opposition SYRIZA leader and former premier ordered his lawmakers to vote against it.
New Democracy was backed by the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) but the KKE Communists, ultra-right Hellenic Solution and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ MERA25 parties voted against the measure.