ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government reportedly has on the table required COVID-19 vaccinations for groups other than health care workers and those over 60 years old if the pandemic worsens.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis backed away from a pledge to consider mandatory shots for all of society and is moving toward targeted groups as the health crisis has overwhelmed public hospitals.
That came after the first case of the especially-contagious Omicron Variant appeared on the island of Crete at the same time that cases, hospitalizations, patients on ventilators and deaths are jumping to record levels.
After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen talked about compulsory vaccations, a step that Mitsotakis hasn’t been willing to make as he concentrates on the economy, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said, “We are ready at any time to do what we need to do concerning the pandemic.”
He added: “With our decision on compulsory vaccination, we are one of the first countries and there will be others,” said Kathimerini.
But, so far, public workers, the military and police – whose ranks are full of anti-vaxxers – haven’t been forced to be inoculated although it’s within the Prime Minister’s authority to require it.
Mandatory moves, said Oikononou, are “the last resort for vaccination coverage,” and the government said those over 60 who don’t make an appointment for a shot by Jan. 16, 2022 would be penalized 100 euros ($113) a month, taken from their pensions although it wasn’t said if salaries of public workers are included.
Mitsotakis said that he has a “moral obligation to use all the tools at our disposal to convince all citizens over the age of 60 of the need to get vaccinated,” after a persuasion campaign has largely failed for months.
In a meeting in Athens with World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge he discussed vaccinations and said booster shots could be given four months after the last previous shot instead of waiting until six.
While the government has scrambled from policy to policy that keeps changing, the pressure on the health system is intensifying, with 704 people on ventilators in public hospital ICUs and no move made to recruit private clinics to help.