Greece rolls out COVID vaccines in migrant camps

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Asylum-seekers in Greece lined up to get their coronavirus shots on Thursday as authorities began rolling out vaccinations in migrant camps.

The government, which began vaccinating the general public in January, had been criticized by rights groups for being slow to include asylum-seekers, at risk in overcrowded camps where sanitary conditions are poor and social-distancing impossible.

There are about 12,100 asylum-seekers on five Greek islands close to Turkey, and about 9,400 of those live in official camps, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR.

On Thursday, vaccinations began on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot, said Anastasios Chatzis, an official with the National Organization of Public Health.

“We have the vaccines, we have the staff, the mood is positive,” Hatzis said from Lesbos. “We have a long but good road ahead, and we hope everything goes well.”

Nikos Babakos, director of the Lesbos camp, said vaccinations would be done there so as not to burden the island’s health services.

“We are continuing to inform the population in order to be able to vaccinate as many as possible,” he said.

About 15% of people in camps had so far expressed an interest in getting vaccinated and about 30% had already been ill with COVID-19, Migration Ministry Secretary General Manos Logothetis told the Athens News Agency.

In Greece, a country of about 11 million, more than 35% of the population have received at least one dose, the government said on Thursday.

Photo: A woman, holding her child, receives a shot of the vaccine against COVID-19 at a mobile NPHO unit at Kara Tepe camp on Lesvos island, Greece. EPA-EFE/VANGELIS PAPANTONIS