ATHENS – New Democracy government campaigns trying to persuade anti-vaxxers to be inoculated against a hard-charging resurgence of COVID-19 have largely failed but the jumping number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths has convinced many, especially the young, to rush for their shots.
Citing the most recent data, Kathimerini said that the profile of those wanting to be protected is reaching younger people, especially with worry that it takes two shots weeks or months apart to be fully protected and that some who got only one dose are still susceptible.
The number of cases has begun passing 7,000 daily, some 15 times what it was earlier in the summer before the government vaccination scheme called Eleftheria (Freedom) stalled badly.
The fourth wave of the pandemic has apparently scared the wits into many of those who were skeptical or afraid of side effects or other reasons not to get the shots.
It’s unclear what effect the soaring pandemic has had on anti-vaxxers who doubt the safety or efficacy of the vaccines that work, and those who think it’s part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA or control their minds.
Since Nov. 1, bookings have continued to rise almost exponentially, with a total of 225,547 in the first 10 days, the newspaper noted, and that appointments for a first shot have especially increased in hard-core areas of resistance, such as Drama, Kilkis, Pella, Pieria, Serries, Ilia and West Attica.
Those areas had vaccination coverage of less than 50 percent and held back the fight to reach 70 percent, which is what health officials said is needed to beat back the pandemic. Less than 62 percent of the country is fully protected.
In Thessaloniki, which has also been hard hit by the fourth wave and has been a symbol of defiance against vaccinations and health measures, people are also beginning to book their shots to get protected.
As Greece’s public hospitals have been overwhelmed with rising cases of COVID-19 being spread by anti-vaxxers not ordered to be inoculated, the New Democracy government is said to be thinking of conscripting private doctors to help.
Private physicians were ordered during lockdowns when the pandemic began in early 2020 to assist after most refused a call to provide services, and private hospitals weren’t being fully used either.
Health Minister Thanos Plevris, who has no experience in the health field, said the private doctors would be directed to join the fight if not enough of them volunteer to deal with a resurgence of the Coronavirus, said Kathimerini. “In order to strengthen the hospitals, people (doctors) are leaving Athens, which is still not under pressure, to help in other regions, but we have also given incentives to private doctors with an amendment,” the minister said during a visit to the city of Larissa in central Greece where the viral load is high.
“I want to be clear on that. If private doctors do not respond to the incentives, we will be forced to issue a requisition order,” he said, without explaining what the incentives would be otherwise.
Even as the number of cases has set records, he said there won’t be any lockdowns again as the government has instead required the unvaccinated to show proof of negative COVID tests to get into most public spots.
He again urged people to be vaccinated, a persuasion campaign which has failed and keeps being repeated although only some 61 percent of the population of 10.7 million has been vaccinated, short of the 70 percent needed to beat back the pandemic.
He also said that unvaccinated minors will have to show a negative COVID self-test that can’t be verified against any identification – not molecular or rapid tests – if they want to get into establishments where anti-vaxxers are allowed to mix with the vaccinated.
Plevris said he wants a probe into reports that some gynecologists are recommending that pregnant women not be vaccinated against COVID-19.
That alleged advice came as the number of cases was setting records and had the New Democracy government scrambling over how to slow it, requiring the unvaccinated to show negative COVID tests to enter most public places.
In a letter, Plevris asked the Panhellenic Medical Association to examine the relevant complaints, “and to judge whether such medical advice contradicts the rules of medical science and endangers the health of patients,” said Kathimerini.
The association said that it assists local medical groups which have the authority to investigate such complaints and will ensure that action is taken in proven cases, the paper said.
There have been several cases of pregnant women with severe COVID-19, including a 40-year-old nurse who was in intensive care at the University Hospital of Larissa in central Greece and a 38-year-old who died in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, her mother saying her doctor told her not to get the shot.
That would go against recommendations of Greece’s scientific agencies, including the Hellenic Obstetrics and Gynecology Society which issued guidelines about getting vaccinated.