ATHENS – After a slow start, Greece’s vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is being sped up in a race to slow the pandemic and get the economy going again, the government urging more people to be inoculated.
But Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he won’t require health workers to take the shot despite being on the front line of the battle, many reluctant to do so.
He and his panel of doctors and scientists advising him on health measures said the vaccines are safe and effective but many don’t want to either the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca two-shot version nor the single-shot from the United States’ Johnson & Johnson after reports of rare blood clots in a few cases.
For the benchmark of herd immunity to be reached some 70 percent of the population of 10.7 million people – about 7.49 million – must be fully vaccinated but only about 10 percent have so far.
Despite that, the vaccines are showing signs of working in the first groups who got them and are the most susceptible, the elderly and those with multiple or underlying conditions, said Kathimerini.
The data shows that while cases were going up and down, and deaths and people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) kept rising, that the vaccinated elderly are avoiding critical care.
Intubations are still rising steeply for those aged 65-74, but vaccinations for this age group have only begun recently – on March 26 for those aged 70-74 and on April 2 for the 65-69 group.
There is also a slight upward trend for the under 60s, who have not started vaccinations yet with Greece still relying on a cumbersome European Union for deliveries far behind schedule.
Mitsotakis, trying to balance saving lives and the economy, eased a pseudo-lockdown that wasn’t working and now health authorities will be checking epidemiological data from high school senior classes who went back to school, using self-tests..
After pumping 17.5 billion euros ($21.04 billion) into a package in 2020 for workers temporarily laid off during lockdowns, and for their businesses, more financial aid injections have been made, straining the beleaguered treasury.
Tourists from a few select countries will be allowed to enter on April 19 if they can show proof of vaccination or a negative Coronavirus test as a trial before the government plans to open to even more visitors on May 14.
Now the government is set to decide on April 23 whether people will be allowed to travel to their villages for the Holy Week period leading up to Easter on May 2.
But another test has been mostly young people gathering by the hundreds and thousands in public squares in the country’s biggest cities, including the capital Athens, shunning masks and taking the risk they won’t get infected.