Greek authorities are considering the possibility of granting “privileges” to vaccinated residents as an incentive to boost vaccination rates once vaccines are fully available and accessible to all.
“Privileges are needed for those who are vaccinated in order to serve as a clear incentive and help curb resistance among those who have second thoughts [about vaccination] or are drawn in by conspiracy theories,” said Deputy Interior Minister Stelios Petsas, speaking on SKAI TV.
Special rights that may be granted for the fully vaccinated include greater freedom of movement in Greece and abroad, access to indoor spaces including restaurants, which are currently closed, as well as other liberties.
Petsas confirmed that the issue was being discussed by the government and health experts for a month now and that he expects a relevant decision will be announced by mid-June in efforts to accelerate vaccination.
Greece has been recording slower-than-expected vaccination rates over the last few weeks, even cancelling vaccination rollouts on certain islands such as Samos due to lack of participation. According to “Our World in Data”, 21.5 percent of the Greek population, or approximately 2.3 million people, has been fully vaccinated to date.
Speaking on the issue, Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis clarified that special rights to vaccinated individuals will only be considered when there are enough vaccines for the entire population.
Only then will it “be certain that the one who is not vaccinated, is because he did not want to and not because he didn’t find an appointment,” he said speaking to SKAI radio.
“We’re still not at the point of full vaccine availability,” said Georgiadis adding however that in two three weeks’ time vaccines will be widely available, and that the special rights programs for the vaccinated are already being implemented in other countries.
In the meantime, the medical community also supports the idea. Infectious disease expert Haralambos Gogos and two of his colleagues told SKAI that they think it’s a good idea and that making vaccination obligatory for some groups should be considered.
“It is good to have incentives for vaccinated people and in the end we can discuss mandatory vaccination for specific categories. The issue is open. It will be included in the discussion because it is very important. But we have to see all its aspects and views,” Gogos said.
Greek authorities expect people will react to the decision citing social injustice and discrimination. The government’s Covid-19 committee however said the benefits far outweigh the reactions. It hopes the decision will encourage the undecided to get the jab, particularly in view of being given easier access to such activities as ferries, theaters, and cinemas, among others.
In response to journalists’ questions on the issue, Government Spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said on Monday that it was too early to speak of any privileges, adding that vaccination was the “only way to freedom” and encouraged everyone to get the jab demonstrating personal and social responsibility.
She confirmed that the issue was currently being discussed with health experts and that only after the country’s vaccination rollout moves forward, will there be relevant announcements.