Vaccination efforts in Greece initially left out legal permanent residents without a social security number (AMKA); but partly thanks to the social media campaign launched by Americans and others living in Greece, this oversight has now been rectified.
On March 5, the Greek Parliament finally ratified legislation granting foreign residents a temporary AMKA number as a way to get around this growing problem.
This law rectifies a grave and dangerous oversight that affected thousands of legal residents, according to Rebecca Lieb, who had recently moved to Greece from New York City and who was instrumental in launching the campaign for vaccination to all.
Thousands of legal residents initially left in limbo
Without AMKA, there was no possibility of obtaining a vaccination appointment in Greece for the thousands of foreigners who were residing legally in the country.
Golden Visa holders and their families, estimated at 70,000 people, including students, retirees, some diplomats, digital nomads, and other residents without work permits could not hope for a vaccination without the AMKA, which is tied to a work permit.
Even elderly Greek citizens who retired to Greece — but never worked in Greece — could not get an AMKA, nor can many resident EU citizens.
Other EU countries only required proof of residency. Greece initially tied vaccine eligibility to a work permit or work history, Lieb said.
Law on vaccination amended
Articles in Greek and English-language publications sparked interest from several major foreign media outlets, putting Greek ministries on high alert, added Lieb.
Oddly, the inability to acquire vaccination on the part of foreigners living in Greece was occurring at the same time that the Greek government is actively funding marketing campaigns to attract many foreign workers and retirees to live in Greece.
Social media campaign moved vaccination in Greece forward
Simultaneously, a social media campaign was drumming up awareness and support for vaccination for all who live in Greece.
Posts in Facebook expat groups in Greece helped to organize a disparate group of expats who were desperate for vaccination, but unsure how to go about asserting their rights.
These people were encouraged to reach out to Ministers, other politicians, the Greek Ombudsman, and local media, as well as to urge their friends to do so.
The statistically significant group of expats have been frustrated since the beginning of the vaccine rollout in Greece since man of them had been specifically invited to live in the country by the Greek government; even those who had lived in the country prior to the past year, they say, were not asking for special treatment, just to be treated like all other Greek residents.
The Greek Ministry of Health states that as of the present time there is no timetable for a vaccination signup online for foreign residents, but everyone who is interested may now at least sign up for a temporary AMKA at the KEP, according to Lieb.
The US Embassy is aware of the situation and promises to post updates on its Covid 19 information page.