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Skeptics Remain, Greece Will Get 300,000 COVID-19 Vaccines First Batch

December 16, 2020

ATHENS – With surveys showing more than half of Greeks are wary about its safety and efficacy, some 300,000 doses in a first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected, with the New Democracy government trying to persuade people to take it.

But two shots are required a few weeks apart which means 150,000 people will be in line for the first shots, front-line health workers and those most susceptible: the elderly, people with underlying conditions and nursing home patients.

The first batch is far below the millions of doses that were expected to be delivered with the European Union still not giving its approval although shots have been approved in the United States and United Kingdom.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas told Parapolitika radio the details, adding that immunizations could start by the end of the year and into January but that recipients won’t be able to choose from among several vaccines.

The news came as the country is still struggling with a second wave of the Coronavirus with 550 people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) on ventilators after 98 perished on Dec. 15, bringing the total to 3,785.

There were another 1,240 confirmed cases, twice that reported a day earlier but attributed to twice as many tests being given during a second lockdown that will extend through the holidays until at least Jan. 7, 2021.

While most Greeks said they are following health protocols aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 – especially wearing masks – only 42 percent said they’re reading to take a rush vaccine.

A study by Athens University of Economics and Business tracing public attitudes during the pandemic during a second lockdown showed reluctance to take vaccines discovered at world record speed.

That showed the difficulty the New Democracy government will have in persuading people that the vaccines, due to arrive in early 2021, will work and are safe, especially in the face of a minority anti-vaccination movement.

Preparations were already being made for how to distribute the inoculations with the National Health System (ESY) working with the Health Ministry to identify hospital and medical staff workers as among the first recipients.

First to get the shots will be nurses, health visitors and midwives but the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees demanded that hospital staff not be transferred to the vaccination centers because of shortages, also said Kathimerini.

Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis said Greece will procure 14 special deep freezer refrigerators, of which seven have already been received and the remaining seven are expected within the week because the vaccines must be stored, through several travel points, at  -72 degrees Celsius (-161.6 Fahrenheit) at each step.

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