All people in Greece aged 60 and over who have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine will be fined monthly as part of an effort to boost overall vaccination levels in the country.
According to Bloomberg, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged senior citizens on Saturday to get the vaccine in order to avoid the monthly fine of 100 euros ($114) beginning on January 17.
“To the few of our fellow citizens over 60 who are still unvaccinated, I encourage them today: take the step,” Mitsotakis said. “It’s not a matter of fine, yes the fine will be imposed, but that’s the least. Protect your life, the lives of those you love and understand that the vaccine is safe.”
Greek tax officials will impose the steep penalty on citizens who have not received the vaccine. The funding will be distributed to local hospitals.
Health Ministry officials said roughly 520,000 seniors in Greece had not taken the COVID-19 vaccine before the vaccine mandate was announced in November. Since then, however, around 220,000 have gotten the shots. The remaining 300,000 is expected to include some citizens who are eligible for medical exemptions.
Spokesman Ioannis Oikonomou said on Thursday that the government has run out of ways to convince Greek citizens to take the vaccine.
“So, we are now turning our attention to the protection of our fellow citizens, of our fellow citizens. For this reason, their vaccination becomes mandatory from now on,” Mitsotakis said in November, Greek City Times reported. “It’s a decision I have to tell you that tormented me personally. However, I feel a heavier responsibility to stand by the most vulnerable, even if they may be temporarily unhappy.”
“I have absolutely no doubt that our political decision will save human lives. Because vaccination is becoming more than mandatory,” he continued. “Saves lives. It is necessary for health. It is now necessary for the whole society. Greek women and men, therefore, over the age of 60 who have not been vaccinated should have made an appointment by January 16, I repeat January 16, to take the first dose.”
“It is not a punishment. I would say it is a price of health,” the prime minister added.
Mitsoktakis reiterated that the fine was about “protection, not punishment”
“It is time to speak the language of truth and the truth is only one: the vaccine saves lives and first and foremost the most vulnerable,” he said. “That is why, as I told you, it is not obligatory, it is necessary, it is necessary.”