The Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Greece: all hands on deck

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

In Greece too, an all-hands-on-deck situation results from the preparations for the vaccination effort against the Covid-19 pandemic to succeed. All of the National Health System assets have been already mobilized; the private sector is asked to join in, with pharmacies having a special role since Greeks traditionally rely heavily on them for primary care; the National Public Health Organisation /EODY has assumed a crucial organization role, further to its overall function to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, presently in its second wave, ensuring the vaccination of special population groups (old people’s homes, migrant and refugee camps, prisons).

For the vaccine to be transported (and stored) safely, police forces are being called out; the military will also have a role, with military hospitals already opening their gates so as to enable rapid tests to be administered in a large scale (a point where Greece has not paid enough attention until now) and free of charge.

Since an EU-wide vaccination date has been announced (27-29 December, in a belated show of our European common fate) and EU-provision of vaccines has been the option taken (with the anticipated hiccups from trying to play the pharma markets – unsuccessfully), one has just to wait for high-profile, emblematic vaccinations of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to take place, with further dignitaries to follow and to sound a rallying call for the general population to get the vaccine.

All of which will be less than enough if the polls have got it right as to the hesitant way Greek public opinion faces the vaccine. Recent opinion polls reveal that more than a quarter of citizens (27.4% according to the findings of a Metron Analysis/Dianeosis poll) have still a negative stance towards the vaccine; this is not a negligible share of the population, although significantly lower than the 42% of negative answers to a mid-September poll. Positives are higher among those aged 65+, where one sees percentages exceeding 80%; the same goes for respondents having a health profile that puts them at risk – as well as those more well-off.

On the opposite part of the spectrum, one in four respondents would like to get the shot as soon as possible. Since for anything close to herd (or crowd) immunity to be reached a vaccination rate of over 70% has to be reached, it is in the middle ground that the match will play out. There, 51% of those having a positive stance – meaning close to 30% of the total – will get vaccinated only after some further consultation with their family doctor, or with friends and relatives; close to 20%, which brings us over 13% of the total, will get vaccinated only once the majority gets the shot.

At a time that a new mutation of the SARS-Cov-19 virus has been traced at the South of England, a more virulent strain as it seems, none of all this is cause for complacency.