ATHENS – It’s The Big Hope – that it will slow and then bring a halt to the COVID-19 pandemic – but vaccines are only slowly being delivered to Greece in small batches instead of the millions expected.
The first group was only 9,750, from the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech, but requires two doses three weeks apart, good for only 4,875 people, a long line of politicians waiting to get them first.
The second batch of 83,850 – enough for 41,925 people – arrived Dec. 29 on a special flight and will be guarded by Greek police and anti-terrorist squads because of its value and its need to be kept at -72 degrees Celsius (-161.6 Fahrenheit) in deep freeze containers.
Getting the vaccine isn’t mandatory, with a number of anti-vaccination groups in the country and surveys showing half of Greeks don’t think it’s safe or effective after being rolled out in record time.
The government has five central storage points around the country, from where the vaccines will be sent to scores of vaccination centers although the doses must be kept ultra frozen along the way.
A Health Ministry official, Marios Themistokleous said Greece will receive 419,250 Pfizer vaccine doses by the end of January 2021 and another 333,450 in February. At the end of March, the country will have received a total of 1,255,800 million doses.
The government aims to have vaccinated 85,000 people by the end of January 2021, said Kathimerini and after the Pfizer-BioNTech version expects to get 240,000 doses from Moderna, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., which can be kept in a refrigerator and needs only one shot.
Greek authorities also expect 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s at the end of January, followed by another 800,000 at the end of February, 1,500,000 at the end of March and 2,200,000 doses in April.
But that vaccine’s trials showed only 62 percent effectiveness although company officials said it’s 100 percent effective against the most serious cases of the Coronavirus.
The other vaccines are 95 percent effective but the government said people will not be allowed to pick which one they prefer and other vaccines are expected to follow from Frances’s Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson in the United States and Curevac in Germany as health officials said at least 70 percent of the country’s population of 10,423,054 people – or 7,296,137 people – must be inoculated to overcome the pandemic.
But according to the government’s figures there will be enough vaccines for only 4,367,900, almost three million too short to bring the herd immunity needed to defeat the Coronavirus unless more vaccines keep coming in 2021.