ATHENS – Even if not a pandemic at some point, COVID-19 could become a permanent fixture in life and require annual vaccinations in Greece as boosters against the potentially deadly virus.
That was the assessment of Elias Mossialos, a Professor of Health Policy and former government minister who told the Athens Health Summit, organized by Kathimerini, that life won’t be normal again.
Greece has the second-oldest population among the 27 countries of the European Union, a sector that is especially susceptible to becoming ill or perishing from the Coronavirus, he noted.
In Greece, the over-65s make up 22 percent of the population, compared to 11 percent in Israel and the number of elderly in that group is rising to the point where the economy is continuing to shrink.
“If one made a simple comparison, one would say that we did not do too badly. We have lower vaccination rates than France, Ireland and other countries and higher ones compared to Bulgaria and Romania. So we have good levels compared to several European countries. Of course, we have not convinced a significant percentage of vulnerable groups and the elderly,” he said.
He said that Greece’s “performance” in relation to other countries in terms of dealing with COVID has to consider factors including the number of deaths per capita, comorbidity, health systems and other epidemiological data, the paper reported.
A minister for the former PASOK Socialists who had been a spokesman for that government said that, “logically the virus will become more contagious and less dangerous, which will be the result of stronger vaccines and medication,” even as for now it is spreading because of the unvaccinated.
With the New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis backing off a pledge to consider mandatory shots if the pandemic worsened – it has – there are no plans for another lockdown as the concentration is on an economic recovery.
Mossialos said that he doesn’t expect another closing of non-essential businesses, especially with the critical Christmas revenue season looming, adding that, “Lockdowns are not a solution. It kicks the problem one or two months down the road. Vaccinations and the administration of the third dose should proceed immediately,” he added, a slow process.
Marios Themistokleous, Secretary-General in charge of vaccinations, praised the Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination program that until recently, when people were apparently scared over rising cases and deaths, had failed to hit its goal.
The number of vaccinated had stalled at about 62 percent of the country’s population of 10.7 million people, but has risen to about 72 percent, above the 70 percent threshold that health officials said was needed to slow the pandemic, but hasn’t.
Themistokleous lauded the program as, “the best manifestation of the executive state,” despite a reluctance to make it mandatory.
Asked about how long it took for vaccinations to rise, he blamed “a wide range of social, political and cultural factors,” but not the government. “There are no magic wands,” he said.