ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s health minister says any adult who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to do so by the end of June as the country ramps up its vaccination drive.
Vassilis Kikilias, speaking on Greece’s Skai radio on Thursday, said the country was going to be carrying out 100,000 vaccinations per day as of May 5, and that “any adult who wishes to” will be able to receive a vaccine by June 30.
Greece, a country of about 11 million people, has so far administered just over 3 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs. More than 2 million of those are first doses, while just over 910,000 people have been fully vaccinated with both doses, with the vaccination drive roughly in line with the European Union average.
But the country has been experiencing a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks that has strained the health system despite lockdown-type restrictions being in place since November. More than 800 people are intubated in hospitals, while a total of 10,242 people have died of COVID-19 in Greece since the start of the pandemic. Total confirmed cases stand at nearly 340,500.
This week, Greece opened its booking system for younger age groups for access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was more readily available in the country as it proved to be less popular with the older age groups.
Those aged between 30 and 44 can now book appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine, while those aged 50 and above are also being vaccinated, with all available vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and, as of next month, Johnson and Johnson. The booking system opens for those aged 45-49 on Saturday.
Kikilias said that nearly 115,000 people in their 30s had already booked appointments, with more than 10,000 having already received their first shot.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appealed to elderly Greeks to get vaccinated, saying hesitancy was driving persistently high death rates and numbers of hospitalizations.
He said that 95% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units had not been fully vaccinated. Health experts say Greeks aged over 80 and below 70 were failing to book or skipping vaccine appointments in significantly larger numbers than those aged 75-79. The government has appealed to the Greek Orthodox Church and retiree associations to help with the vaccination campaign.