ATHENS – Only health care workers in Greece will be forced to get COVID-19 vaccinations – those who refuse will be suspended without pay – but the New Democracy government won't yet make them a requirement for other public workers.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier said he couldn't make the health workers, including doctors and nurses on the front line of battling the pandemic get their shots but then forwarded legislation making it a must.
That was because the country's Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has stalled, with a little less than half the population of 10.7 million fully protected, far less than the 70 percent that health officials said is a benchmark to beat back the Coronavirus.
Even tourism workers on islands where the virus is spreading aren't required to be vaccinated, only be tested and Kathimerini said that the government will wait until the end of the summer before deciding if shots will be extended to others.
The government is said to be hoping that so-called herd immunity will kick in if enough people are vaccinated and is also allowing the unvaccinated to dine outdoors with the vaccinated while also urging everyone to get their shots.
If cases don't abate, the report said that Mitsotakis will give the order for other public workers, including police, the Coast Guard, fire brigade and workers employed in energy, water supply and public transport to be vaccinated.
That decision is seen coming after Aug. 23 when the Parliament where the government has a majority will open after the summer break, as new legislation would be required.
For now, Mitsotakis is steering clear of whether to include teachers, only appealing to them to be inoculated, some 25 percent so far refusing even though they could put themselves and others, including students, at risk.
Greece’s National Vaccination Committee approved shots for the 12-15 year-old group on a voluntary basis, media reports said.
“The decision was based on epidemiological evidence, the swift spread of the Delta variant and the availability of safe vaccines,” the head of the committee, Maria Theodoridou, said. “The benefits outweigh the potential side effects,” she said.
Vaccination will be voluntary and will require parental or guardian consent.
According to Marios Themistokleous, Health Ministry Secretary-General for Primary Health Care, the platform will open on July 30.