As the deadline approaches for the implementation of mandatory vaccinations in the public health system next week, the Health Ministry on Wednesday suspended all holiday leave of staff, effective September 1.
The move aims to fill the gaps that will arise from the suspension of employment contracts of workers who refuse to get vaccinated. According to official figures, as of August 19, there were 19,416 hospital staff and 2,248 primary care workers that were not vaccinated.
At the same time, in an eleventh-hour move, the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN) submitted a request on Wednesday seeking the annulment and suspension of the law on compulsory vaccination to the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, arguing that the threat of sanctions against workers violated their constitutional rights of human dignity, the free development of the individual’s personality and the right to work.
What’s more, POEDIN members will go on strike and hold rallies on Thursday to protest the suspension, without however failing to clarify that they are in favor of vaccination. “POEDIN has never been negative on the issue of vaccination, as from the first moment we urged our members to get vaccinated,” the federation said in an announcement, stressing that, as a result of this attitude, “over 82% of public health workers have been vaccinated.”
The president of POEDIN, Michalis Giannakos, told Kathimerini on Tuesday that all the federation is asking for is more time to convince other health professionals to get vaccinated. In response, government officials say time is running out.
“After 18 months of fighting this battle, no one can say, ‘I do not know, I was not told, I did not know,’” Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis said in a televised interview on Wednesday. “There will be no extension, the law will be implemented on September 1,” he stressed.
In July, a day after Parliament voted on the amendment on compulsory vaccination, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to Paragraph 4 of Article 25 of the Constitution, according to which “the state has the right to demand that all citizens fulfill the obligation of social and national solidarity.”
For her part, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou stressed that the Constitution does not recognize anyone’s right, in the context of his or her own freedom, to endanger the life and health of their fellow human beings.