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Greece’s Unvaccinated Health Care Workers Face Unpaid Suspension

ATHENS – Required to be vaccinated, Greek health care workers who don't receive at least one of two necessary shots before August ends will be suspended without pay, with indications that inoculations could be mandated for other public sector employees to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff at care homes for seniors and the disabled will be suspended on Aug. 16 if they fail to comply while the hammer will fall on ESY workers on Sept. 1 if they also refuse as the government is trying to squeeze public workers.

The suspensions – without pay – will be indefinite until the pandemic ends, leaving those who refuse to be vaccinated no other option although the New Democracy government said they won't be fired.

A huge majority of workers in the health care sector have been fully vaccinated but there is a zealous anti-vaxxer segment there as well as Greek society who don't believe the vaccines are safe or effective or that they are part of a international conspiracy to alter their DNA and control their minds.

Interior Minister Makis Voridis hinted that, depending on the epidemiological data in mid-August, the government could decide to suspend other unvaccinated civil servant workers who deal with the public because of the health crisis.

Only half of the country's population of 10.7 million people has been fully vaccinated, far short of the 70 percent benchmark that health officials said is necessary to push back the pandemic, now more than 1 ½ years long.

The crisis has been lengthened by anti-vaxxers who keep spreading the Coronavirus but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis still hasn't moved to require tourism workers to be vaccinated as they spread the virus.

Tourists and others who go to islands must show proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test or a document showing they have recovered from COVID-19 to be allowed to travel there, but workers on the islands  don't have be inoculated.

Labor Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told SKAI TV he believes the reluctant will be persuaded although they haven't yet, and that, the “government and citizens must show the maximum degree of responsibility.”

Referring to health workers, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias told Mega TV that “They have a supreme mission, whose cornerstone is the support and love for their fellow human beings,” hoping they will heed the call.

“I cannot imagine that some people working in these structures would risk their lives and the lives of the people they care for,” he said, noting the number of health workers who have been vaccinated has increased. 

As of Aug. 3, some 88 percent of ESY doctors, 74 percent of nurses and 72 percent of other hospital staff had been vaccinated, no explanation from the others who are on the front line of battling COVID-19 and see people in intensive care units and perishing.

But representatives of hospital employees said that about 10,000 health workers at hospitals, health centers and Greece’s ambulance service (EKAB) haven't been vaccinated.

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