Sunday, January 16, 2022

Greece approves compulsory vaccination for people over 60

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greek lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all residents over 60 to cope with the surge in infection and the emergence of the omicron variant.

The bill, backed by the center-right government and the center-left opposition party, but rejected by all other opposition parties, targets the country’s age group most vulnerable to death or intubation from the coronavirus.

About 17% of Greeks over the age of 60 have not yet been vaccinated. They have until January 16 to get their first shots, or they will be fined € 100 ($ 113) for each month they are not vaccinated.

Parties that opposed the measure said it was too harsh for low-income people who do not want to get vaccinated.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was reluctant to propose the measure due to “unforgiving” facts: nine out of ten Greeks dying from COVID-19 are over 60; Seven out of 10 intubated patients in intensive care units are of the same age group, and more than eight out of 10 of them have not been vaccinated.

Mitsotakis said during the debate that 17% of unvaccinated people over 60 are “too many to ignore.”

“These are undoubtedly the people who are most at risk,” he said. “But they are the ones who, being unprotected, are besieging the public health system, depriving thousands of others with very serious health problems from treatment.”

Last month, the government tightened restrictions on the unvaccinated by imposing mandatory tests on all non-essential shops, services and venues, including outdoor cafes. Officials say it sparked a spike in vaccinations, but not among those over 60.

Mitsotakis said there have been nearly 2 million vaccinations in the past three weeks. But of the 580,000 unvaccinated people over the age of 60, only 70,000 received the first vaccine.

“I don’t care if this measure will cost me additional votes in the elections,” Mitsotakis said. “I am convinced that we are doing the right thing, and I am convinced that this policy will save lives.”

Compulsory vaccinations will not apply to people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months or have serious health problems such as autism or epilepsy. The penalties will be added to tax accounts after cross-reference with government social security databases and entered into the government’s national health system.

The country of nearly 11 million has now recorded more than 18,000 deaths and almost 950,000 cases of the virus – none of them from the omicron variant so far. About a quarter of the adult population remains unvaccinated.

The government has ruled out new general isolation. In the summer, Greece introduced compulsory vaccinations for medical workers and rescuers of fire services, and those who did not comply with these requirements were suspended from work indefinitely without pay.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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