The government’s ultimate goal is to use vaccinate sufficiently that the novel coronavirus becomes like a “bad case of flu” and does not place a burden on the health system and social life, General Secretary of Primary Health Care and Coordinator of the Eleftheria Vaccination Programme Marios Themistokleous said on Saturday, in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
The next goal, he said was a new ditigalised health system with the participation and cooperation of the public and private sector, which will provide high-quality services. “Digitalisation is the main arm of the new changes. Operation ‘Eleftheria’ shows us the way forward,” he added.
Asked whether he was confident that the government will eventually meets its vaccination goals, Themistokleous said that 61 pct of the general population and 70 pct of the adult population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Greece currently ranks 11th in the European Union for daily vaccinations and is 17th for vaccinations with one dose and completed vaccinations,” he said, while noting that those that have already had Covid-19 must be added to this in order to calculate how close Greece is to building herd immunity.
The precise percentage that need to be vaccinated in order for this to be achieved was not absolutely clear and may change as new variants arise, he pointed out, but the goal was to vaccinate as many people as possible and especially older people who are more at risk from the virus.
“Yes, I am confident that we will manage to control the pandemic,” he said, noting that the goal was to vaccinate a sufficient number without general lock-downs or large numbers of deaths and hospitalisations due to the virus.
On the vaccination of those over 50, he said that roughly eight in 10 people over 50 were now vaccinated but the effort was continuing to vaccinate as many people as possible. Themistokleous said the government was doing its utmost to avoid a damaging general lockdown and vaccination was the strongest weapon for preventing and protecting against this outcome.
“We are working with local government, the church, universities and with all our strength to reach every citizen, so that they are informed and get vaccinated, to persuade even the most hesitant,” he said.
He denied that the government had underestimated the anti-vaxxer movement in Greece, pointing out that this was a global phenomenon and that the rate of those opposing vaccines was about the same, even in countries where vaccination had started much earlier, such as in Israel, or in the United States where there was a strong anti-vaxxer network.
Themistokleous also advised people to get vaccinated against influenza, saying that 4.5 million flu vaccines will be available in Greece, especially for vulnerable groups.