Greece's center-right government says senior state officials will no longer be given priority for the COVID-19 vaccination after posts on social media by Cabinet ministers receiving the shot triggered a backlash from health care unions and opposition parties.
Aristotelia Peloni, a deputy government spokeswoman, said Wednesday that a plan to vaccinate 126 officials from the government and state-run organizations was being cut short after around half had received the shot.
It had been expected that a small number of senior officials would receive the vaccine publicly, as part of a plan to persuade everyone that it was safe and necessary, but the number of people on the list took many by surprise.
"These (vaccination) selfies were wrong. The symbolism around this issue has been exhausted at the highest level and nothing more was required." Peloni told private Parapolitika radio.
Greece's prime minister, president, and the head of the armed forces were all vaccinated at the weekend at the start of a national rollout expected to last months in an effort to ease public concerns over the safety of the program.
They were followed by opposition party leaders as well as Cabinet ministers and other senior government officials — drawing criticism from medical workers' unions.
"Cabinet ministers and their general secretaries have been lining up for a selfie with the vaccine, while doctors, nurses and other front line workers may have to wait their turn until the end of summer to get vaccinated," Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the left-wing opposition, said Tuesday after getting his own vaccine shot. "That's not symbolism, it's favoritism."
Peloni, the government spokeswoman, said 66 officials had been vaccinated by midday Wednesday out of a total of 1,128 people who had received the vaccine.
The last official on that list was the leader of the Greek Communist Party, Dimitris Koutsoumbas.