ATHENS – The government on Wednesday tabled an amendment enacting the mandatory vaccination measures announced by the prime minister, attached to a health ministry bill scheduled to be voted on in parliament later the same day.
The amendment stipulated that every person born before or on December 31, 1961 who is a resident of Greece is required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 “for imperative reasons of protection of public health” before January 16.
Effectively, this means that every person over 60 years old in the country is required to be fully jabbed by January 15, 2022. The only exemptions are for people who have either recently recovered from Covid-19, for a period of up to 180 days from diagnosis, and those that have proven health reasons why they cannot get vaccinated.
For persons in that age group that fail to get vaccinated within the time allowed, the government has legislated for an administrative fine of 100 euros for every month that they remain unvaccinated. For January only, those that get a first dose of a vaccine by January 15 and complete the vaccination within the allotted time, the fine will be halved to 50 euros. If the first dose is received on or after January 16, the full fine will be imposed.
The fines will stop being collected on the first day of the month following that in which a first vaccine dose was received while all fines will be automatically collected by the Independent Authority for Public Revenues (AADE) using a method that fully protects personal privacy.
The sums raised in fines will be used only to bolster the national health system as part of the effort to manage the pandemic.
The amendment also stipulates that the time when the measures cease to be in force are to be decided by the health minister, based on epidemiological data.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to address parliament and discuss the mandatory vaccination measures at 13:30 on Wednesday, during the debate on the health ministry bill.
GREECE MANDATES COVID SHOTS FOR OVER-60s
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was left with no choice but to order mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for those over 60 as the pandemic rises because so many elderly just wouldn’t get the shots.
He said he reluctantly made the decision after his government said there wouldn’t be further restrictions against anti-vaxxers who are now infecting even the fully vaccinated as the efficacy of the doses is wearing off.
That has seen booster shots being booked but not enough people making appointments for the first of two of most versions, especially the over-60 sector of people either afraid or skeptical.
“(The decision) tortured me, but I feel a heavy responsibility in standing next to those most vulnerable, even if it might fleetingly displease them,” he said, according to Kathimerini. The requirement begins Jan. 16, 2022.
“Of our 580,000 unvaccinated fellow citizens over the age of 60, unfortunately only 60,000 rushed to get vaccinated in November,” Mitostakis said, essentially throwing in the towel over a persuasion campaign that failed to convince enough people to be inoculated.
Along with the order for shots will be fines of 100 euros ($114) every month for those still refusing although there is a hard-core segment of anti-vaxxers who don’t think the shots are safe or effective or that they are part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA or control their minds.
“It’s the price to pay for health,” he said. He earlier backed off a pledge to require shots for all if the pandemic worsened, as only health workers are required to be vaccinated, not even police enforcing health measures.
“We are focusing our efforts on protection of our fellow citizens and for this reason their vaccination will be mandatory from now on,” Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting, the paper said.
Greeks over the age of 60 who have not been vaccinated must, by January 16, book an appointment for their first dose to avoid the fine that would be a big hit for pensioners in a country where the average benefit is 730 euros ($825.41) monthly.
The fine will be automatically deducted through the Independent Authority for Public Revenue for all those who insist on refusing to be vaccinated but it wasn’t said if it would be taken out of checks of public workers or if other state benefits would also be affected.
LIVES IN THE BALANCE
“I feel a heavier responsibility to stand by the most vulnerable, even if they may be temporarily unhappy. I have absolutely no doubt that our political decision will save human lives,” he stressed, adding that the fines “will be collected in a special fund which will finance the hospitals.”
“It is mainly the (people) over 60 who are hospitalized and unfortunately many of them are lost. And as we have said many times, they are unjust deaths,” Mitsotakis noted.
Only about 63% of Greece’s around 11 million population is fully vaccinated, a number virtually unchanged since the summer and far below the 70 percent of the country’s population of 10.7 million people that health officials said is needed to slow the pandemic, with another worry over the Omicron Variant coming after the Delta Variant.
While vaccine appointments picked up after rising cases, hospitalizations, people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths, there are still 520,000 people over 60 who have failed to get a jab.
“Among the over-60s, nine out 10 deaths are COVID-related, while seven out of 10 intubated patients also belong to the same age group,” the sources said.
Minister of State Akis Skertsos said in a social media post that in countries such as Portugal and Denmark, where the vaccination rate in this age group is 99 percent (compared to 83 percent in Greece), the pressure on the health system and the loss of lives is up to 10 times smaller compared to the corresponding Greek data.
“We have entered the cycle of the third shot, and a global cycle of uncertainty has opened due to the new variant… we can’t be still discussing the first dose of the vaccine in Greece,” a government source pointed out, according to the news agency Reuters.
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated adults will be provided with free self-tests shortly before and after the holidays as the government is also trying to save the critical Christmas revenue period for businesses without resorting to another lockdown despite the rising deaths.
Greece this month barred unvaccinated people from indoor spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms as daily Covid-19 cases hit record highs and so far has had 931,183 infections and 18,067 deaths, jumping nearly 100 a day, the news ageny noted.