Greece starts vaccinating migrants on islands

Country rolls out 'Blue Freedom' vaccines for asylum seekers

04 June, 14:34

    ATHENS - Greece on Thursday kicked off it's vaccination program for migrants and refugees on the country's eastern Aegean islands.
    Asylum seekers at the Kara Tepe facility on the island of Lesvos, the Vial center on Chios, and the Vathy camp on Samos, will be the first to get access to the vaccine against Covid-19, with plans to then expand to other island and mainland facilities afterwards.
    The vaccination days will be every Thursday and Friday and the shots will be administered by staff of Greece's National Organization for Public Health (EODY) using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
    Greece's Ministry of Migration and Asylum released a brief statement via its Twitter account, saying: "Today, Thursday 03.06.21 we began vaccinating asylum seekers at the facilities on Lesvos, Chios, and Samos; next week, according to the scheduling of the program and the availability of vaccinations, asylum seekers on the island of Kos and Leros will then get access to the vaccinations, as well as the first 10 reception centers on the mainland." Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis also stated that he will pay a visit to the Vial camp on Chios to check on the progress of the program in person, along with the president of the EODY, Panagiotis Arkoumaneas. Originally, Mitarakis had said that vaccinations would be rolled out for asylum seekers in May, but that target was missed due to the general sluggishness of the country's nationwide vaccination program.
    In Lesvos on Thursday, the location of the largest accommodation structure for asylum seekers, the vaccinations were carried out in groups of five people at a time in the medical health center that was donated by the Dutch government.
    "As the vaccines can not be left out of the refrigerator for a long time, the vaccinations will be given to a certain number of people and by appointment, and always inside the health center so that the vaccination lines of the local community are not burdened," said Nikos Babakos, the general manager of the Kara Tepe camp.
    Regarding the vaccinations on the islands, according to Greek health officials, only 15 percent of Greece's migrant population have stated so far that they are willing to get the vaccination.
    The program, which is called "Blue Freedom", has seen low rates of participation so far.
    However, 24 hours earlier on Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Vassilis Kikilias, announced that the percentage of fully vaccinated across the islands amounts to 27%, noting that it is higher than 20.39% which is the corresponding percentage for the whole region.

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