ATHENS – After a painfully slow start in a campaign to vaccinate the country against COVID-19, more than 730,000 people in Greece have received inoculations with the numbers growing by 30,000 a day.
The Health Ministry said 4.7 percent of the population has gotten the first shot of batches that require two shots three weeks or three months apart depending on which version is given.
While that is expanding it’s still far short of the 70 percent of the population of 10.7 million – or at least 7.5 million – who need to get both shots in order to be effective in slowing the pandemic, health officials had said.
At the current rate, more than 1.5 million people will be vaccinated by the end of March with shots now being given to those 75-79 as well as 60-64 years old, the numbers rising over the 20,000 daily given up to Feb. 15.
The Health Ministry’s Secretary for Primary Healthcare Marios Themistokleous told reporters that Greece is above the European Union average in terms of vaccination coverage and in fourth place as far as vaccination rates are concerned.
He said that another 1.42 million appointments have been made as people, many initially reluctant to get the vaccine in worry it might not be safe or effective, are eagerly lining up to be protected.
He estimated that by Easter there will be a good “percentage of immunity, especially among people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus,” with the New Democracy government for now seen extending a third lockdown.
Greece has received another 112,000 doses of the vaccine from the team of the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, 24,000 from the US company Moderna and 90,000 from the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has continued to push EU leaders to adopt his idea of a vaccination certificate to be allowed to speed travel for tourists, a critical part of Greece’s economy.
Tourism Minister Harris Theocharis told The Financial Times that vaccine certificates are key to resuming international travel that many countries in the EU rely upon.
“Some countries are very much preoccupied with now” he told the paper, as northern European nations appeared unwilling to look ahead. “We need to move more quickly.”