Letter from Athens: Greek Health Care Workers Must Take a Shot on The Shot

July 5, 2021

A Greek doctor, nurse, physician's assistant, or health care worker who refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 doesn't believe in the science in which they were trained, which would be like the hierarchy of the Greek Church including atheists.

The ironic oddity is that they otherwise are such heroes and deserve every accolade known to humankind, to be brave enough to wear what amounts to hazmat suits and work brutal hours trying to save people gasping for their last breath, watching too many die.

You'd think that would be enough to make them cut ahead of politicians who jumped the line in Greece to be the first to be vaccinated, but that's a given because many politicians gain their positions by being ruthless, greedy, unscrupulous, and willing to step over the dead and on the living.

It's a dilemma for Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis who has been urging, pleading, and now paying people – those 18 to 26 – to be inoculated so that a benchmark of 70 percent of the population needed to beat back the pandemic can be reached.

At only 33 percent and the scheme dubbed Eleftheria (Freedom) slowing down although 8 million shots have been given in a country of 11 million people, Mitsotakis likely will have to make shots mandatory in the autumn.

He has been reluctant, timid even, in not using the power invested in him to make public workers conform to rules set by the state as a condition of employment, and instead the government has hatched hybrid plan.

That wouldn't force workers to be vaccinated but it would isolate those who don't, away from being in contact with the public, which is exactly what they want because it means they can hide in a back room and surf the Internet instead of working.

“This is a lively debate, it concerns other countries as well, all views are being tabled,” said government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni, although it's really an a priori argument stemming from a false premise held by anti-vaxxers who think the shots aren't safe or effective, despite evidence they are.

There's also a small nutcore nucleus who think the pandemic was concocted by the pharmaceutical industry and governments to change their DNA to make them Altered Carbon beings or to control their minds, if they have any.

Those include a former deputy health minister for the previous ruling Looney Left SYRIZA, Pavlos ‘Smoke 'Em if You Got 'em’ Polakis – a surgeon – who doubts science, so you might want to check his medical degree from the University of Mars.

Mitsotakis might fear that making health care workers be inoculated would make them quit but inasmuch as 90 percent of them have taken the shot if the other 10 percent walk, so be it. Their jobs will be filled fast by the sane.

Thousands of Greek doctors and other health professionals fled the country during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis and the best thing Mitsotakis could do would be to raise the pay of doctors, nurses and health staff and you'll see a return faster than you can say Donald Trump is Certifiable.

The Public Hospital Workers Federation (POEDIN), sounding like its leaders need a checkup from the neck up, said that health care workers who refuse to be vaccinated shouldn't be forced to do so because they observe personal protection measures and are punished if they don't.

Some 27 workers in the field have been victims of the pandemic they've heroically tried to stop and unless someone wants to be number 28 that should be enough to convince them, along with the scientific evidence the vaccines have worked to slow the pandemic. That's the fact, jack.

“We are against the obligation to vaccinate health and welfare workers. Making it obligatory violates constitutional freedoms and individual rights,” the union said, sounding just a bit outside of the crazy lane.

Mitsotakis has the right to make them be vaccinated, so they can roll up their sleeves and get ready for the jab or be shown the door because I wouldn't belong to any health care club that would have them as members.

Speaking to state-run ERT radio, Professor of Constitutional Law Antonis Manitakis said, “any measure deemed necessary for the protection of public health – and which is backed by the health experts committee – is lawful.”

He disagreed, though, with Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis, who said that private businesses should have the right to fire workers who refuse to get vaccinated against the virus.

“Dismissing (unvaccinated workers) would be an extreme measure. [It's] neither necessary, nor legal,” said Manitakis, a former interior minister. He said companies can legally separate vaccinated and unvaccinated workers, however.

But even as the pandemic wanes, the deadly Delta variant from India is set to be the dominant strain in Greece by August and it will be hunting the unvaccinated who think they've escaped the worst, including recalcitrant health care workers.

There's still time to increase the vaccination rate over the summer and once it's clear everyone has had a chance to be inoculated then Mitsotakis has to move against those who've refused, especially those in the health sector.

Or they can follow their union's sage advice and have the right to remain dead. 


My fellow TNH colleague Theodore Kalmoukos often uses the word “tragicomedy” to describe phenomena that are pitiful and laughable all at once.

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