ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece launched an online platform on Monday for people to register for vaccinations as authorities prepare to begin rolling out COVID-19 shots for the general public after a first phase of inoculating top priority groups.
Along with other European countries, Greece began vaccinating frontline health care staff and elderly and vulnerable residents of nursing homes last month following EU approval of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Starting with those over 85, the rest of the population will start being vaccinated from Jan. 20.
“The vaccination train has set off, it’s rolling down the track steadily and speeding up,” the head of Greece’s National Vaccination Committee, Maria Theodoridou said in a briefing.
Some 49,661 people, or 0.46% of Greece’s population, have been vaccinated so far and the government aims to get some 220,000 covered by the end of the month, building to 70% of the population of 11 million by June.
Additional vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected in the coming months, health ministry official Marios Themistocleous told reporters.
Monday’s launch of the platform came as authorities allowed kindergartens and primary schools to reopen after two months of distance learning but said the situation would be reviewed every week.
Last week authorities extended some COVID lockdown curbs until Jan. 18, including the temporary closure of hospitality venues and non-essential retailers.
Greece weathered the first wave of the pandemic relatively well but a surge in cases since October has badly strained its health system, weakened by a decade-long financial crisis, prompting authorities to order a second lockdown in November.
It has so far confirmed 145,179 cases of COVID and 5,302 related deaths.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by James Mackenzie and Gareth Jones)