The coronavirus pandemic is choking Europe and the restrictions are back again. But, in addition to the harsh restrictive measures in many countries (for example, in Germany), another big debate about mandatory vaccination flares up.
Austria became the first country to introduce compulsory vaccinations in addition to the general quarantine since February 1. In Germany, they are more and more inclined towards the introduction of such a plan.
While others are opting for isolation, closing bars and restaurants, and banning traffic, in Greece the government is deciding to restrict the “freedoms” of unvaccinated citizens in order to pressure and increase vaccinations.
According to the European Center for Infectious Disease Control (Ευρωπαϊκό Κέντρο Ελέγχου Λοιμώξεων), about 60% of people in Western Europe are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but only 50% are vaccinated in Eastern Europe.
Since last week, the number of deaths in Europe has increased by 5%, which immediately affected the situation in the country. Yesterday, Monday 11/22/2021, one of the darkest records in the entire pandemic was recorded: 105 people died in 24 hours, and 608 people were admitted to intensive care units.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Europe is once again at the epicenter of a pandemic, as relaxation of restrictions and unequal distribution of vaccines have created a very “difficult situation” on the continent.
Vaccine inequality and the geographical distribution of deaths
Inequalities in vaccination are a major obstacle to the fight against the pandemic. And this is reflected not only at the European but also at the national level.
Characteristically, in Greece, regional units with a very low level of vaccination, especially in age groups over 60, are in a more difficult situation than others, and hundreds of cases of infection are counted daily, dozens of deaths are stated.
In northern Greece, according to the calculations of Nikos Tsanakis, professor of pulmonology at the University of Crete, there is no regional branch with a vaccination rate above 70%, for people over the age of 60.
On the contrary, other regions such as Attica, thanks to the large number of vaccinated people, are facing a milder version of the pandemic, both in the case of severe hospitalizations and in terms of deaths.
“In Central Macedonia, the death rate is twice as high as in Attica in terms of population. In Northern Greece in general, and in Central Macedonia in particular, there is no region where the vaccination rate among people over 60 years old exceeds 70%. In other words, we have more than 30% of elderly people not vaccinated. Which leads to their death. On the contrary, this is not the case in Attica. About 19-20 regions have a fairly good vaccination coverage, ie more than 80% of people aged 60 and over. We see the lowest mortality in these regions, ”says Nikos Tsanakis to iatropedia.gr.
A compelling fact of the pandemic today is the fact that unvaccinated seniors over the age of 60 account for 85% of intubated and over 90% of deaths from Covid-19.
Thus, the debate about the possibility of introducing compulsory vaccination is gaining momentum in Europe and is now even being discussed at the World Health Organization as the only way out of the pandemic.
Tsanakis: “Let’s talk about it as a last resort”
“Compulsory vaccination for people over the age of 60 can provide a solution to the pandemic,” says professor of pulmonology Nikos Tsanakis. However, at this age, it is not easy to force citizens, because you cannot motivate them or impose a “fine”, as the expert notes.
“It would be good to implement this bill, even if it is not fully observed,” the professor says, explaining: introduces them, and these measures do not constitute the general line of the philosophy of Europe. But I would say that we should bear this in mind as a last resort. In other words, there is no “punishment” that obliges unvaccinated 60-year-olds and older to get vaccinated at the moment, other than to reduce their mobility. In this connection, experiencing such difficulties in their daily life, they can be “forced” to get vaccinated.
Tuntas: “Mandatory vaccination of employees in the first place”
A new package to fight the pandemic has already been proposed to the government by EKPA Honored Professor of Medicine and Director of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Yannis Tuntas. This includes the mandatory vaccination of occupational groups that are considered carriers of the spread of the virus.
These, he said, are food service workers, teachers, public transport staff, security guards and those who work in the trade (public and private companies).
“At this stage, I do not recommend vaccinating people over 60 years old. However, I propose other measures that have not yet been taken. Those who are not vaccinated and contribute to the pandemic, the so-called “vectors”, that is, those who are in daily contact with many different people, should be vaccinated. “If nothing is tested in the near future, mandatory vaccinations should be extended even to the elderly,” says the professor.
Vatopoulos: “This is clearly a state issue”
“Scientists are urging all citizens, especially those over 60, to get vaccinated. However, the issue of introducing a ‘mandatory’ regime is clearly a matter of the state,” said Alquiviades Vatopoulos, professor of microbiology at the University of West Attica.