Appointments for initial coronavirus vaccinations in Greece jumped sharply in the first 24 hours after the government announced on Tuesday that vaccination for people over 60 will be made mandatory.
According to government sources, in the last 24 hours, a total 17,500 appointments were made for the first installment of the vaccine series in the age group of 60 and over. This number comes close to 2,600 per day, meaning there was a sevenfold rise in appointments.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis defended the government’s decision to make vaccinations compulsory for all over 60-year-olds across the nation in an interview with Reuters.
“I am certain that we are following an effective policy,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the measure was “proportionate” given the lag in vaccination rates and the fact that the government had previously “tried every available means of persuasion to boost their number.”
With the measure due to be voted on in Parliament later the same day, the Prime Minister pointed out that unvaccinated elderly people currently made up 90 percent of patients occupying ICU beds in Greek state hospitals.
Greece will impose fines to those who refuse vaccination
He said that the 100-euro monthly administrative fine for those who fail to comply was “reasonable” and would be collected by tax authorities, adding that Greece must increase the vaccination rate for both the first dose and booster shots.
He also pointed out that Greece was the first EU country to give the entire population access to a Covid vaccine booster.
Mitsotakis said there were no plans at present to make vaccination mandatory for other age groups, noting that the 60-plus age group was currently that is placing the most pressure on the country’s state hospitals and creating problems for those facing non-Covid-related health issues.
Opposition leader calls on Mitsotakis to “get a grip”
Addressing parliament, main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance President Alexis Tsipras was harshly critical of the prime minister’s actions and said the government was “in confusion” or “possibly in a panic”.
Tsipras launched his speech by referring to the vaccination becoming mandatory for people over 60, saying that “at a very crucial time of unprecedented crisis and insecurity” the prime minister had appeared “smug”, with assertions about “saving lives” when Greece had hit a record for deaths per million.
There were nearly 150 people “hooked up to makeshift ventilators outside of ICUs” in the last two days, Tsipras pointed out, while it was entirely unclear whether there was any hope of saving their lives.
EU needs to think about mandatory vaccination
The President of President of European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Wednesday that the EU should “consider” the issue of compulsory vaccination while clarifying that the decision belongs to the member states.
“It is a discussion that I personally believe should take place,” von der Leyen told a news conference on the pandemic, one day after Greece made vaccinations mandatory for people aged 60 and over.
The introduction of compulsion requires a “common approach”, von der Leyen acknowledged, noting that one-third of Europe’s 450 million people remain unvaccinated.
“It is a discussion that I believe we should lead,” she stressed.
Watch below the press conference in Brussels. The relevant section on mandatory vaccination is after 22’50”.
We are now facing a double challenge in the fight against #COVID19.
The rapid resurgence of Delta across Europe and a new variant of concern: Omicron.
Full vaccination and boosters provide the strongest protection there is. And they are available now. https://t.co/FOuda4Jbvj
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 1, 2021