An anti-vaccine protester holds a Greek flag during a rally, at the northe city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.(AP/Photo Giannis Papanikos)
THESSALONIKI — COVID-19 vaccination resisters in Greece, who are spreading the virus and not required to be inoculated, are stepping up street protests against any idea of mandatory shots.
Greece has a relatively small but rabid anti-vaxxer segment who don't believe the vaccines that have slowed the pandemic are safe or effective or that they are part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA and control their minds.
In another demonstration in the second-largest city, Thessaloniki, they clashed with riot police who used tear gas and a water cannon to break it up, said Reuters in a report on the increasingly violent resistance that has seen doctors threatened.
The protest came during the opening of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) where Prime Minister and New Democracy leader gave a mostly economic address and as he has backed off mandatory shots for all for now even though the pandemic is rising again.
An anti-vaccine protester sits on her knees during a rally, at the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP/Photo Giannis Papanikos)
Authorities said protesters hurled flares at police who blocked them from trying to reach the area where Mitsotakis would deliver his annual economic address after he earlier ordered unpaid suspension for health care workers refusing vaccinations.
Protests against the shots after his New Democracy government directed mandatory shots for the health care workers but not for police who have a far higher rate of anti-vaxxers and aren't being compelled to be inoculated.
Authorities have suggested vaccines could become obligatory for other groups too, such as teachers as well as clerics but they weren't for tourism workers, even on islands where the Coronavirus spread during the summer.
A Greek orthodox priest stands in front of riot police during a rally, at the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP/Photo Giannis Papanikos)
“Yes to vaccines, but not mandatorily,” the federation of public hospital workers, POEDIN, said in a statement after its leadership urged it vaccinated members to refuse to report they are fully protected to show solidarity with anti-vaxxers.
Greece has suspended some 6,000 frontline health care workers from their jobs for missing a Sept. 1 deadline to get at least one vaccine shot after giving them a second chance and and allow those suspended to return to work but most refused.
POEDIN officials said there are as many as 10, unvaccinated staff could be suspended, disrupting operations at understaffed hospitals at a time when infections remain high, the news agency added.
An anti-vaccine protester throws a flare during a rally, at the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP/Photo Giannis Papanikos)
Only about 55 percent of Greeks in a population of 10.7 million are fully vaccinated, far less than the 70 percent benchmark needed to beat back the pandemic but Mitsotakis, wary of alienating more voters, has backed away from mandatory shots for all.
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