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Greek Doctors Turn On Anti-Vaxxing Colleagues, Want Penalties

ATHENS – As Greece's aim to vaccinate 70 percent of the population to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic is falling far short – 50 percent so far – Greek doctors are angry at colleagues who are warning the shots aren't safe or effective and want them disciplined.

Some Greek doctors, denying the science in which they were trained, have taken to social media to spread conspiracy theories about the vaccines that have worked to slow the pandemic, but with hard-core resistance among some.

Medical associations in the country have launched disciplinary procedures against their anti-vaccine colleagues, said Kathimerini, noting that a doctor in the central city of Larissa was fined 3,000 euros ($3563) for going on Facebook to post that the vaccines have “serious side-effects” and “disrupt human DNA.”

Like many posts of that type, it was in all-capital letters with exclamation points but despite the seriousness of trying to convince people not to be vacccinated, she was not named so her patients may not know what she did.

The discipline was fast-tracked, the paper said, by the president of the local medical association Constantinos Giannakopoulos who looked into it himself instead of going to his board, where the case would likely have stalled.

He told the paper that he has heard from several colleagues across Greece about how to discipline denialist doctors and that the procedure has begun against a number of them.

Maria Theodoridou, Professor Emerita of Pediatrics and President of the National Vaccination Committee said conspiracy theorists make up about 7-8 percent of the population of 10.7 million – as many as 856,000 people.

She said the others could be persuaded to get vaccinated although that approach has failed for months and led Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to consider making the shots mandatory in the autumn, for all.

Theodoridou said doctors advising people not be vaccinated could likely sway them to stay away from being protected, which has led their colleagues to move against them, a rare step in a profession that circles the wagons against discipline.

A total of 10,540,000 shots have been administered since the start of  the Eleftheria (Operation Freedom) campaign, General Secretary for Primary Health Care Marios Themistokelous told a public briefing.

He said 5,705,000 citizens having received one dose of a vaccine and 5,170,000 had gotten both of two shots for the Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson version from the United States.

He said that the pace of vaccinations is slowing down as businesses close for the August holidays and people head off on vacation, with the average rate at around 40,000 shots a day.

“The drop is definitely because of the summer and we’re hoping that new appointments will start being added to the program after August 15,” he said, reported Kathimerini.

Themistokelous also said that 33,000 people have received a shot or have planned one in the 15-17 age group, but only 5,300 appointments for those 12-14 as the country moves to inoculate the young while not making shots mandatory apart for health care workers.

Sme 3,200 appointments have been booked by mobile units serving people who cannot get to a vaccination center, though only 725 people have been immunized so far, that goal also failing to be met as the virus, driven by the Delta Variant, keeps the country in its grips.

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