Greece has been criticized for having one of the slowest vaccination roll outs in Europe. But official data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDP) provide a more encouraging picture.
Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis was grilled on the BBC on Thursday about the country’s preparedness to open to travelers on Friday. The journalist insisted that Greece is vaccinating citizens at the slowest pace in Europe. This, however, appears to be only partly true, according to the latest report by the EU agency published on May 9.
The report says that only 27.6% adults 18 years and above in Greece have either registered to receive or received at least one vaccine dose.
This places Greece among the bottom 5 of EU countries in terms of vaccination rollouts. Only Croatia (26%), Romania (23.2%), Latvia (19.9%) and Bulgaria (11.2%) are in a worst situation than Greece according to this metric.
The tiny Mediterranean nation of Malta tops the league of European nations with the fastest vaccination roll out in Europe.
According to the same data from May 9, Greece does better in the category of the number of fully vaccinated people among adults in Europe. As of that date, 13.7% of Greeks had had both doses of the vaccine.
This is higher than the number of fully-vaccinated people compared to many countries in Europe with similar populations, such as Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, the Netherlands and Finland.
The percentage of fully-vaccinated people in Greece is even higher than Germany, where only 11.3% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated at this point.
As Greece opens to tourism on Friday, many ask whether the country is ready. After all, the coronavirus has not disappeared. On Thursday Greek health authorities confirmed a total of 2,167 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours and 55 deaths.
Greece believes it is ready as vaccination rollout gathers speed
“I often hear the question: last year we went in lockdown with almost zero infections, why today are we opening with so many Covid cases? Because 2021 is not 2020,” said Akis Skertsos, Deputy Minister responsible for the coordination of the Government work, in a press briefing on Thursday.
“Last year the population immunity was almost zero, while right now it is increasing exponentially,” he added.
Greece’s major tourist islands will have completed their vaccinations by the end of June, Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias said at Wednesday’s regular live briefing on the pandemic, while 32 of the country’s smaller islands have already been fully vaccinated.
The Minister provided details concerning the vaccination program, which prioritizes permanent residents of islands, and said that another 36 islands with up to 10,000 inhabitants will have been fully vaccinated by the end of May.
Residents of 19 of the country’s major islands will be vaccinated under this program by the end of June.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for the permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“The goal is the universal and complete vaccination of the permanent residents of the islands by the end of June at the latest. That is, for our islanders to welcome this summer safe and completely protected from the coronavirus. It is clear that this program seeks to support local island communities and their economy. However, it also aspires to send a positive signal for the overall image of our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
The campaign concerns the universal vaccination of all adult residents over 18 on nineteen islands, with the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Meanwhile, vaccinations on another 32 islands are already completed and for another 36 islands are due to be completed by the end of May.
The Prime Minister stressed that the first large delivery of Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the end of the month will be directed to the islands, in order to build the first wall of immunity there.
Mitsotakis also noted that “as we gradually open up economic and social activity, great care is demanded from everyone.”