A few days ago, French President Emmanuel Macron riled up vaccine skeptics across Europe when he made vaccinations mandatory for all health-care workers (many of whom had previously refused) while tightening COVID rules to pressure French citizens to get vaccinated. As other governments ponder whether to follow suit, thousands took to the streets of Athens in protest on Thursday to oppose vaccination programs.
The biggest transgression, in the eyes of the protesters, was the government's decision to bar the unvaccinated from certain public spaces. They're also opposed to plans to immunize teenagers. The policy barring unvaccinated from bars, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues will take effect Friday and remain in place at least until August. Teens will be able to receive the vaccine starting Thursday.
Massive protests all over Greece today after the prime minister issued what is essentially medical apartheid. The media is trying to spin it as an “anti vaccine” protest instead of what it’s really about : freedom of choice and bodily autonomy. https://t.co/tR2SoRlOc6— Ève (@EviEvakii) July 14, 2021
According to Reuters, more than 5K anti-vax protesters, some waving Greek flags and wooden crosses, gathered in the Greek capital, shouting "take your vacines and get out of here!" while calling on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to resign.
NEW 🚨 Plan to vaccinate teenagers in Greece sparks huge protests today in Athens and Thessaloniki. pic.twitter.com/I8WWfBBHPp— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) July 14, 2021
With a heavy police presence to oversee them, protesters gathered outside parliament, taking their protest directly to lawmakers.
Wednesday's protest was the biggest demonstration of opposition to the inoculation drive. A recent poll by Pulse for Skai TV found most Greeks say they will get the vaccine when available, with the majority in favor of some form of mandatory vaccination for certain jobs or segments of the population. Already, 41% of Greeks have been fully vaccinated.
"Every person has the right to choose. We're choosing that the government does not choose for us," said Faidon Vovolis, a cardiologist, who has questioned the scientific research around face masks and the vaccine and heads the "Free Again" movement, which called the protest. Vovolis said he started the group in response to the government's "tough measures" to contain the virus.
In addition to the massive crowd in Athens, thousands also appeared in Thessaloniki, the Greek Second City. Similar demonstrations also took place in France (in response to Macron's latest edicts).