ATHENS – While still not requiring health care workers to be vaccinated, Greece's New Democracy government is rapidly adding younger and older age groups to the plan to inoculate enough of the country to reverse the COVID-19 pandemic.
That had begun with the elderly – after dozens of politicians were given priority – but as many as 30 percent of them still haven't received their shots, many said reluctant or afraid or thinking it won't work.
With as many as 5 million doses of vaccines set to arrive in May in a race to develop herd immunity and make the country safe – and lure more tourists – the government is considering vaccinating those 80-89 at home and now offering shots to the 30-39 year-old group.
Deputy Prime Minister Akis Skertsos told state broadcaster ERT TV that Greece's vaccination rate is at the European Union average, without mentioning that's only 10 percent of the population and that the bloc has failed to deliver enough doses in a program that turned into a debacle.
Health experts said at least 70 percent of the population of 10.7 million – or some 7.49 million people – or 10 times more, must be fully vaccinated to slow the pandemic but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised a speed-up.
Skertsos said the first of two shots of the versions from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca (AZ) have been given to 25 percent of the population but use of the US' Johnson & Johnson has been suspended over blood clot fears.
“Thousands of 30-somethings are booking appointments,” he said, while predicting immunity by the end of the summer, with Greece inviting tourists who have been vaccinated or show negative tests to enter.
“We are already seeing a de-escalation in the hospitals,” he said, the numbers of people in critical care in Intensive Care Units (ICU's) on ventilators – 813 now – reports adding that 95 percent of the worst off hadn't been vaccinated.
The emvolio.gov.gr platform opened April 28 for scheduling appointments for people aged 40-44- for the AZ version, which had also been temporarily held up over rare blood clot worries but now cleared for use.
More than 60,000 appointments for the AZ vaccine were booked by people aged 30-39 on the first day they became eligible, showing a rush to be inoculated, even the skeptical young eager to protect themselves.
Speaking during the Health Ministry’s public briefing, General Secretary for Primary Healthcare Marios Themistokleous said that showed people are keen to be vaccinated after initially being reluctant.
Most want it done immediately and are getting next-day appointments to receive the first dose. “The fastest vaccine is the best vaccine,” he said. Pfizer-BioNTech requires two shots three weeks apart, four weeks for Moderna and 2 ½ months for AZ while J & J is a single shot version.
The head of the National Vaccination Committee, Maria Theodorou, said those wanting faster immunizations can arrange to have the second AZ shot eight weeks earlier though.
All four available vaccines, including J & J will be used for the next group, aged 45-49 who will become eligible on April on May 1, the program suspended only for Easter on May 2.
The bad news is that a sampling of wastewater showed the pandemic getting worse in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace compared to the rest of the country, the picture in Athens getting better even as stores opened and the government will allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining only as of May 3.
There were another 3,313 cases on April 27, shown from 76,844 tests, with 1,581 in Attica – which includes Athens – 418 in the second-largest city of Thessaloniki, along with 92 deaths, one of the highest daily rates of the third wave.
Georgiadis urges citizens that neglected their vaccination to do it now
Development and Ιnvestment Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Wednesday urged any citizens that neglected their vaccination appointment to hurry up and get vaccinated now, in an interview with the radio station Parapolitika FM.
He said that the turnout for vaccination among young people aged 30-39 was spectacular and he also underlined that, as the pandemic subsides, the restrictions will be gradually be lifted, adding that the answer to the novel coronavirus is the vaccine.
On the opening of tourism, he said that those who do not get the vaccine place the sector at risk.
Gerapetritis: Vaccine the passport to recovery
"The prime minister and all of us have asked and urged the citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to create an immunity shield for themselves and for society as a whole," said State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis to radio Alpha 98.9 on Wednesday, adding that the vaccine was the "passport" to a better future.
He said the turnout among 30 to 39-year-olds to the vaccination centres was excellent and noted that "the vaccine is the 'passport' for our salvation and our recovery and everyone needs to understand this, even those that are scaremongering".
Gerapetritis noted that the vaccinations performed in Greece have reached 3.0 million and that by the end of May "we estimate that we will have reached 5.0 million, an ambitious target but we are optimistic".
Commenting the vaccination avoidance, he said that "unfortunately is a phenomenon that causes very serious collateral problems for society".