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Greece Speeds COVID Vaccinations in Race Against Delta Variant

ATHENS – More than 8 million does of COVID-19 vaccines have been given in Greece, with a population of 11 million, in a bid to slow the pandemic and the scary Delta variant, although only about one-third has been fully inoculated.

Health officials said at least 70 percent of people living in the country must be protected to beat back the Coronavirus and its variants and there still remain small pockets of resistance, including among health workers.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said if the benchmark isn't reached by the early autumn he could make the shots mandatory, as is already planned for public workers, those refusing facing job transfers away from the public.

Official data on the website emvolio.gr, showed the number of vaccinations reached 8,028,343 on June 26, with 3,534,001 people fully vaccinated. On that day alone, 103,090 people were vaccinated, despite a brutal heatwave.

That came as health officials said worry was rising about the spread of the Delta variant that began in India, which was overwhelmed by it, and as Greece on May 14 began allowing tourists who were vaccinated, had a negative test or had recovered from the virus.

Elias Mossialos, a former minister and Professor of Health Policy at the London School of Economics, told SKAI TV the mutation will become dominant in Greece, with health authorities scrambling to build a defense.

“The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said that the Delta mutation will prevail by the end of August in all EU countries and will account for 90 percent of all new cases,” Mossialos added.

He said that will bring a fourth wave that will hit those who are not vaccinated, and children with suppressed immune systems, with even vaccines not enough to help them.

He recommended a third dose, with most vaccines requiring two, except for the single-shot Johnson & Johnson version from the American health care company.

The Public Hospital Workers Federation (POEDIN) whose members are in the front line of fighting the pandemic, defended those who are refusing to be vaccinated as Mitsotakis is moving toward making them be inoculated.

“It is the social group that has the vast majority of vaccinations, reaching 90 percent,” said the union, adding that health professionals strictly observe personal protection measures and, if they fail to do so, are strictly disciplined by relevant bodies. 

The union noted that 27 colleagues have died due to the coronavirus and their death was not characterized as a work accident but didn't explain why they wouldn't take precautions their own profession has recommended is necessary.

“We are against the obligation to vaccinate health and welfare workers. Making it obligatory violates constitutional freedoms and individual rights,” it said, picking up a mantra used by anti-vaxxer groups who think the vaccines aren't safe or effective or a government-pharmaceutical industry conspiracy to affect their DNA. 

A former assistant health minister for the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, Pavlos Polakis – a surgeon – had his Facebook account blocked over his opposition to the vaccines, said Kathimerini.

In a social media post, Polakis said the ban concerns posts a series of posts he made over four or five days which allegedly contained unscientific views on coronavirus vaccines. 

Polakis implied that “New Democracy trolls” were behind his exclusion, referring to the government which has no say in what Facebook does. “I am neither harassed nor intimidated by such short-sighted tactics,” he wrote.

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