ATHENS – Greece's slow-rolling COVID-19 vaccination campaign, hindered by reliance on a cumbersome and delayed European Union distribution debacle, is beginning to pick up in a bid to reach a level where herd immunity is attained.
Health officials said that requires at least 70 percent of the country's population of 10.7 million, or some 7.49 million, is needed to hit that level but so far fewer than 8 percent have received both of two shots required for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
The version made by the US firm Johnson & Johnson only requires one but its use has been suspended over rare blood clot fears, which has also affected the AstraZeneca vaccine made in the United Kingdom, but still being used.
After dozens of politicians lined up to be first in line to get their shots, the New Democracy government turned to the elderly first and then those with multiple or underlying conditions and now those 30-39 are eligible.
Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis told the state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) that, “With the participation of citizens, we can reach vaccination rates faster than the European average, which will mean an adequate wall of immunity,” he said.
He added that that in less than 10 days, Greece will take “a great step toward lifting pandemic restrictions in a coordinated manner, safely, as per our plan,” without mentioning it's far behind schedule and doesn't require health care workers to be inoculated while urging everyone else to do so.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias tweeted that with the vaccinations in Greece now in excess of 2 million, “we are getting closer to the immunity of the general population,” although under the current schedule it could be months away.
That could be accelerated with some 5.7 million doses from other pharmaceutical companies are coming into June said Health Ministry Secretary General for Primary Health Care Marios Themistokleous, including 4.57 million from Pfizer-BioNTech, 662,000 from the US company Moderna, and 450,000 monthly AstraZeneca.
“Cancellations are slightly increased for the AZ vaccine in comparison to the rest,” Themistokleous , with most of the current vaccination appointments using that version despite people trying to switch to others, still afraid to take it.
Only a small quantity of this specific vaccine was delivered to Greece, he pointed out, as part of the batch Greece expected from Johnson & Johnson until mid-May. Another 300,000 doses are scheduled for delivery in May, with some 960,000 in June.