OPINION

We must use all the weapons in the fight against Omicron

we-must-use-all-the-weapons-in-the-fight-against-omicron

Better late than never. That is, the decision by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to finally make vaccinations for all citizens over the age of 60 mandatory and to thus exert serious pressure on the 500,000 unvaccinated over-60s to fulfill their social obligation and also protect themselves.

This is a decision that should have been implemented months ago when the authorities responsible for vaccinations discovered that the age group in question had been routinely avoiding getting vaccinated. The government was avoiding the decision out of fear of the political ramifications, but also because mandates should be used sparingly in a state ruled by law.

The data over the last few weeks have made it clear that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. The figures illustrated that some countries with populations similar to Greece in size had significantly fewer coronavirus-related deaths. This was primarily because they had a higher vaccination rate among the over-60s (over 95%) in comparison to Greece, where the vaccination rate of the over-60s hovered somewhere in the region of 80%.

This is why the government has abandoned the false narrative in which Greece is gradually returning to normalcy – a narrative that claimed that with 70% of the adult population being vaccinated and with approximately 1 million people having contracted the virus, the country was reaching the much-desired level of herd immunity.

Until recently the prime minister’s office had been resisting calls by epidemiologists to expand mandatory vaccinations to other social groups beyond just healthcare workers, thinking that “the tougher the government is and the more mandates it enforces, the more reaction it creates.”

Experience in other parts of the world, however, has proven that the opposite is true. United States President Joe Biden was among the first to extend compulsory vaccination to other areas apart from health workers. He announced a vaccine mandate for 3.5 million federal government workers, with the threat of suspension for noncompliance. Within just a few weeks, almost the entire body (95%+) of workers in this category had been inoculated.

So, better late than never. Let us hope that whatever decisions the government comes to will strengthen the wall of immunity in the community so it can face the winter and the possible march of the Omicron variant.