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Priority for Elderly, Greece Sets 70% COVID-19 Vaccination Target

ATHENS – Although there’s not enough vaccines to go around yet after a slow rollout of a campaign to get people inoculated against COVID-19, Greece’s New Democracy government said it aims to get 70 percent of the population injected by summer.

That would be an ambitious goal given that vaccinations are running only at about 8,000 a day so far after the first batch from the US company Pfizer and German company BioNTech brought only about 95,000 doses.

The government earlier said it hoped to soon boost that to 2.2 million and was hoping for European Union approval and faster distribution of those from the Boston-area company Moderna and the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca.

Those over 85 years are second in line, after 66 politicians lined up first as what they say were symbolic photo opportunities even though they were not in high-risk groups. Two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech version are required three weeks apart.

Government spokesman Christos Tarantilis said the benchmark would be reached and that the plan was on target although so far it’s not. The 70 percent mark is needed, he said, “to achieve immunity,” although 50 percent had also been said.

He said the number of cases has begun to drop during a second lenient lockdown although there is worry it could spike again after the Greek Church was allowed to violate health protocols in holding Epiphany Day services without consequences.

Tarantilis said that, “We are closely monitoring the data step by step based on the recommendations of experts. We continue to play defense and to plan our counterattack,” reported Kathimerini.

He noted the opening of the digital appointments platform for vaccinations of the general population and plans to give shots at centers across the country although pharmacists, trained to give injections, are being left out for now, drawing protests.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Cooperative of Pharmacists of Thessaloniki (SYFA) and the Thessaloniki Pharmacists’ Association said that pharmacy staff have been on the frontline of the pandemic response, and denounced the Health Ministry’s decision as “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis said those registered on the paperless prescription platform (more than 50,000 people over 85 years old on the gov.gr website) will receive a message with a code from the 13034 number.

They can then confirm the appointment within 72 hours by sending the code received to the 13034 number. The vaccine, however, is not mandatory and there is great reluctance in Greece to take it, nearly half the population citing uncertainty.

The rest can schedule their appointments through a pharmacy or Citizens’ Service Center (KEP) using their AMKA number or through the emvolio.gr platform. At KEPs, the appointment can be scheduled by a third party on behalf of the beneficiary with the presentation of a document of authorization.

On the emvolio.gr platform, interested parties can check if they belong to the category that is being vaccinated during the current period and can select the vaccination center, the date and time of vaccination using their TAXIS tax information and AMKA codes, the report added.

They will receive a code (QR code) which they should present at the vaccination center. It will be possible to change the appointment only once and up to 72 hours before the appointment date.

The emvolio.gov.gr platform also allows people who do not appear in the system, even though they belong to the groups vaccinated in a given period, to submit an application for a shot.

People over the age of 85 will be followed by 80-85-year-olds and the programming will continue until all people aged 70 and over are vaccinated, not enough to hit the 70 percent goal and no word on when it would reach those younger.

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