Greek PM: Vaccine hesitancy driving high death rate

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Policemen check the drivers for valid documents at a roadblock in Elefsina toll stations, west of Athens, Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Greek police set up checkpoints along highways leading out of the Greek capital to enforce a travel ban tightened for Orthodox Easter on May 2. Easter holidays are often celebrated with relatives outside Athens and other cities, but the government said COVID-19 infection levels remain too high to allow free travel. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister has issued an appeal for elderly Greeks to get vaccinated, blaming hesitancy for persistently high rates of death and hospitalization.

“The data we have from ICUs and intubated patients are clear: 95% of them, who are fellow citizens of ours, are not fully vaccinated,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday.

Greece’s vaccination program has remained roughly in line with the European Union average, but deaths are higher and the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care unit treatment is at its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Health experts say Greeks over age 80 and below 70 are failing to make or skipping vaccination appointments in significantly larger numbers than those in the 75 to 79 age bracket.

The government has appealed to the Greek Orthodox Church and retiree associations to help with the vaccination campaign.

Separately Wednesday, a 37-year-old man in northern Greece has been jailed for 60 days for endangering public safety after refusing to wear a face mask and being fined for the violation for a second time.

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