By Phoebe Fronista and Stelios Misinas
ATHENS (Reuters) – Hundreds of Greek frontline health workers protested on Thursday against a plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for the care sector as infection rates remained high.
Healthcare workers observed a four-hour work stoppage against new rules obliging medical staff to vaccinate against the coronavirus, and to call for more resources to public health.
The mandatory jab comes into effect for healthcare workers on Sept. 1. Those who do not comply and have not had at least one shot of a vaccine will be suspended from their jobs.
According to the POEDIN labour union, about 10 percent of healthcare workers have not had a first vaccine jab. Protesters said that while the call for vaccination was widely acknowledged and complied with by healthcare workers, the view of a dissenting few should to be respected.
“I’m here today because I want to support the constitutional right of every Greek citizen to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to vaccination. I personally am vaccinated, but I believe it is my colleagues’ right to not get vaccinated if they don’t want to,” said Evangelia Karatzouli, a nurse at a public hospital.
Greece on Thursday reported 3,538 new coronavirus cases in a single day, with 28 deaths. It reported a record daily rate of 4,608 infections on Tuesday.
The Greek public hospital workers union will support unvaccinated colleagues, said its president, Michalis Yiannakos.
“They consist of a tiny number, and have for the last 18-19 months been on the frontlines, caring for patients in the Covid wards, and have not ever gotten infected, and now they are being thrown out on the streets,” he said.
(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Mike Harrison)