Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all Greeks above 60 years of age before a cabinet meeting in Athens on Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.
Those who refuse to take a COVID shot will have to pay a monthly fine of 100 euros ($144 CAD) for each month they don’t get jabbed, starting on January 16.
The penalty will be enforced by tax authorities and the funds will be given to Greek hospitals, said the prime minister.
“It is not a punishment,” Mitsotakis said. “I would say it is a health fee.”
The 100 euro fine equates to nearly one-seventh of the average monthly pension in Greece of 730 euros.
"[The decision] tortured me, but I feel a heavy responsibility in standing next to those most vulnerable, even if it might fleetingly displease them," Mitsotakis said.
"It's the price to pay for health," declared the prime minister.
Approximately 520,000 people over the age of 60 in Greece remain unvaccinated. Greece’s vaccination rate in this age group is around 83%, compared to Portugal’s 98%.
“Experts estimate that the importance of the vaccine in a 70-year-old person is equivalent to 34 vaccinations of younger ones in terms of public health,” said Mitsotakis.
The mandatory vaccination rule for the elderly in Greece comes after Germany announced plans to impose lockdown restrictions solely on the unvaccinated, and as Austria imposes mandatory COVID vaccines on its entire population alongside reimposing a full nationwide lockdown.