ATHENS – A highly touted vaccination program dubbed Eleftheria (Freedom) to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece has worked to slow the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths but is far short of the benchmark needed to achieve herd immunity.
So far some 35.54 percent of people in Greece have been fully vaccinated but 70 percent is needed to bring the pandemic to a hoped-for halt but doubters and anti-vaxxers, including among the young and health care workers is preventing the goal from being reached.
Especially worrying to the New Democracy government is that the mark is being missed in some key tourist areas despite a lagging program that was aimed at inoculating every resident of a number of islands.
The vaccines – apart from the single-shot Johnson & Johnson – require two shots weeks or months apart and so far 3,873,388 people have either gotten fully inoculated or booked a second shot, said Kathimerini.
But it takes two weeks after the second shot to develop enough anti-bodies for full protection, creating another lag period as the government hopes to lure enough tourists to partially offset the effects of business lockdowns.
The 80-84 and 85-and-over age brackets who are the most susceptible show that 71 percent have either completed vaccination or booked an appointment, which means nearly three out of 10 in these most vulnerable groups are essentially unprotected, the report added.
Despite that, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been reluctant to force public workers to be vaccinated, especially those in the health sector in the front line of fighting the Coronavirus, but said he would consider doing so in autumn.
Greece still has a relatively small but staunch group of vaccination opponents who think it's not safe or effective or is part of a conspiracy to alter their DNA and aren't being persuaded.
Skeptics are especially prominent on the island of Crete, known for its defiance of government regulations, so top officials from the Health Minister went there as part of a campaign to convince people to take the shot as tourist arrivals are expected to surge there after July 15.
But there are also those who live in isolated areas or are confined to their homes, many of them elderly. Vaccinations at home, rather than designated centers, will soon become the authorities’ priority, the paper said.
The online vaccination booking system will soon be made available to teenagers aged 15-18 and experts are debating whether to make vaccines available to youngsters under the age of 15, the report said.
Of special worry is the contagious Delta Variant from India which some health officials fear could create another wave of the Coronavirus spiking later in the summer and undercut the vaccination scheme's goals.