Lesbos, Greece – Greece is launching a mass vaccination campaign for refugees months after the first shots were fired in early January.
Vaccines will be offered to people living in refugee camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos from Thursday.
Campers on the other island, on the mainland, will be offered staff next week.
Athens plans to vaccinate more than 11,000 people living in refugee camps on the Greek islands against the coronavirus. According to UNHCR, there are 91,945 recognized refugees in the country.
More than five million first shots were fired across Greece, home to an estimated 10.7 million people.
The one-time vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson will be used. Employees of the Greek National Health Organization (EODY) are responsible for managing the holes.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Greece mission chief Stephen Oberreit told Al Jazeera: “The vaccination of refugees and asylum seekers living in the Greek islands against COVID-19 has been long overdue.
“We urge the Greek authorities to include this population in every step of the fight against COVID-19, so vaccination is a very positive step.
“MSF in Lesbos, in coordination with other medical actors, the National Health Organization, will participate in a health promotion campaign in the next few weeks at Camp Cara Tepe.”
Concerns about vaccine hesitation
According to officials, only 15% of asylum seekers living in Greece have expressed a desire to receive vaccines.
Concerned about possible vaccine suspicions, Manos Logotetis, head of reception for asylum seekers at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, said he believed the absorption rate would increase if the campaign was launched.
“They showed interest, while many were given immunity because they positively assessed the coronavirus. “Many were asymptomatic,” he said.
“Once vaccination begins, as it did in the general population, these trends will increase.”
Abdul *, a 20-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who has lived in Lesbos for almost two years, said he was worried about getting the vaccine but would still get it.
“I do not feel well [about it] “My friends are not feeling well, but we need to get vaccinated,” he told Al Jazeera.
Locking restrictions eased
Greece began easing restrictions on the blockade on May 14, when it opened for the tourist season.
But human rights groups have criticized the government for opening up to visitors while keeping refugee camps in the country closed.
The country, which had relatively few deaths at the beginning of the epidemic, struggled with subsequent waves and rushed to vaccinate the islanders before the summer months.
Vaccines of the local population are boiling in Lesbos. To date, more than 35,000 doses have been administered.
More than 6,000 people live in the main refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, which was hastily shut down in the wake of a fire that burned most of the previous Moria camp last September.
According to local news, the cases of Lesbos have recently increased. 541 infections were reported in May, 227 of which were among camp residents.
* Names changed