ATHENS – With surveys showing some half of Greeks won't take it, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are due to arrive on Dec. 26, the government hoping to persuade people it's safe and effective.
Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the first vaccinations will take place at five COVID-19 designated hospitals in the capital and Thessaloniki, the second-largest city.
The first to get it will be front line workers such as doctors, nurses and hospital staff as well as the most susceptible: the elderly and those with underlying conditions who are most at-risk.
"We believe that the first vaccines will be in Greece on December 26 and from the following day, December 27, we will be able to have the first vaccinations in five reference hospitals in Athens and immediately after in Thessaloniki," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday, during the meeting on the national vaccination plan that took place at the General Secretariat for Civil Protection.
"There will be a strict prioritisation in relation to which of our fellow citizens should be vaccinated first," the prime minister stressed. "Obviously, the employees in the National Health System will take precedence. Primarily our heroes, who have taken on the major burden in hospitals, health centres, but, of course, also the residents of nursing homes. And our fellow citizens over 65 will follow. We estimate that a total of about 2.4 million of our fellow citizens are included in this age category. And the first of our fellow citizens to be vaccinated in our country will be a nurse and an elderly person."
"We should know that only when we are approaching a 70 pct vaccination rate of the entire Greek population will we be able to speak with confidence of leaving the pandemic behind us," Mitsotakis underlined and explained that "the pandemic will obviously not end with the beginning of the vaccination process."
The prime minister pointed out that "the need for precautions and shielding are not separate phases. They are two parallel processes and the restrictive measures can be lifted only when the downward trend of the pandemic is firmly established." Referring to the holidays, he stressed the need to be doubly cautions and keep social contacts to a minimum, noting that this will likely have to continue for a long time.
There are some 2.4 million people over 65 years old but the most recent report said the country would get only 300,000 vaccines – enough for only 150,000 people – as two shots are required weeks apart.
Mitsotakis was speaking after a meeting held to discuss Greece’s immunization strategy at the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) headquarters, said Kathimerini, where he said European Union approval is expected Dec. 22.
The inoculation of doctors and medical staff at Sotiria Hospital in Athens will begin Dec. 27, Mina Gaga, Director of the hospital’s 7th pulmonary clinic, told the radio station.
Gaga said all hospital workers have said they will have the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available. “It is the only way to ensure everyone is protected,” she said, the shots kicking off the immunization program.