Summer Vacations Slow Stalled COVID-19 Vaccination Drive in Greece


FILE - People wearing face masks, wait in queues outside Peristeri vaccination center in Athens, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

ATHENS – Greece's Eleftheria (Freedom) campaign aimed at inoculating 70 percent of the population against COVID-19 has stuck at only 50 percent, and is slowing as people are leaving their homes to go to islands and villages on summer vacations.

August is an exodus month and this time, with a brutal heatwave that's the worst in 30 years, people are bailing out of Athens and the cities, significantly driving down the numbers of those who will be getting their COVID shots.

On Aug. 2, there were 45,000 given, compared to an average of 60,000-70,000 in the previous two weeks, said Kathimerini, adding that the Health Ministry is launching a vaccination program for hotel employees to make it easier for them, especially at large facilities, to get their shots.

But since the shots aren't mandatory – except for health care workers – but not even for tourism workers, including on islands where the Coronavirus is spiking, mobile teams will go to hotels or get employees to vaccination centers – if they want to go.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he may make shots for all a requirement in the autumn if the 70 percent benchmark needed to beat back the pandemic isn't reached, with tourism hopes already undercut by not requiring tourism workers to get shots, especially on the islands.