Government facing vaccine mandate dilemma
Some officials back extension of compulsory shots to people over 50, while others disagree
With the Omicron variant proliferating around the country, the government is throwing all its weight behind the effort to ensure that Greece rides the fifth wave of the pandemic with the least possible damage so that it can enjoy a Covid-free spring.
Amid the moves it is considering is whether there should be an extension of the vaccine mandate to people over the age of 50, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis receiving different suggestions. This approach is based on the fact that the compulsory measure for those aged over 60 has worked satisfactorily, given that it led to higher vaccination rates in this age group.
However, government officials that are opposed to the move say that now is not the time to extend vaccination mandates, and that this should have been done around two months ago when the Omicron variant first emerged, pointing to society’s fatigue, almost two years since the pandemic began.
Opponents of the extension note that in order for people to have some immunity they will have to do both shots and that this will take at least a month before it kicks in, something that will only bring further social fatigue.
Indicative of the different approaches is that different views have been publicly expressed.
Last Friday, Alternate Interior Minister Stelios Petsas left open the possibility of taking new measures – i.e. an extension of the obligation. On Saturday, Alternate Health Minister Mina Gaga said no new measures were being considered, while on Sunday government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou again left all possibilities open.
At the same time, the government was positive about the first day of school on Monday, given that more than 15,000 cases that were confirmed Monday would not have been detected if they had not opened.
In a social media post, the PM said that “thanks to the system of mass tests, more than 15,000 cases of coronavirus were detected which, otherwise, would have circulated in the community, transmitting the virus much more easily.”
“I want to emphasize that our country is among the first places in Europe in laboratory and self-diagnostic tests. So far it has organized and distributed 94,000,000 tests to 7,800,000 citizens,” he said, while noting that, according to scientists, along with vaccinations, testing is the best response to the pandemic and especially to the Omicron variant.