ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis again said he was left with no choice but to order compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations for those over 60, with the threat of 100 euro ($113) monthly fines in a bid to get more of the population protected.
He said it was the only way to prevent more lockdowns and get the economy going and open society even as the pandemic resurged because he hasn’t extended mandatory shots to other segments, including police where there is a high number unprotected.
Greece has a rabid anti-vaxxer movement that doesn’t believe the shots are safe or effective or are part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA or control their minds and have spread the Coronavirus even to those fully vaccinated.
He hasn’t said why he’s been reluctant to require mandatory shots for all of society as he said he would consider if the pandemic worsened, as it did, as he turned his attention to getting the economy rebounding faster.
“I am a liberal politician and I do not like the idea of mandates in principle. However, I do believe that we made the right decision, as soon as the Omicron variant – about which we do not yet know much – appeared,” he told US broadcaster CNN.
Mandating the obligatory vaccination of people over 60 and setting the fine for a group where there are many pensioners with an average 730 euro ($830) pension was a “last resort,” he said, adding it was necessary to protect the public health systemn.
“Our policies eventually will be vindicated,” he said in an apparent retort at major rival SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras who called Mitsotakis a “vaccination saboteur” and accused him of mishandling the pandemic response.
Only healthcare workers are required in Greece to be vaccinated and those who refuse are suspended without pay but other civil servants can be unvaccinated although there are restrictions on those without shots going into most public gathering places.
The order for the over-60s resulted in a big pickup in the numbers of them making appointments to get the shots as have others apparently frightened by rising numbers of cases, hospitalizations, people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths.
Speaking at a briefing about the pandemic, General Secretary of Primary Healthcare Marios Themistokleous lauded the acceleration of the vaccination campaign that had stalled since the summer.
He acknowledged, however that the number of appointments is still small compared to the estimated 500,000 citizens in the 60+ age group who had not been vaccinated before the mandate was announced, said ANA.