– Athens police are warning that high-risk residents — including the elderly — would be charged a fine if they didn’t get vaccinated for polio, meningitis, measles and other diseases, the latest development in a years-long war between authorities and the country’s anti-vaccination movement.
In a blog post in April, the National Board of Health warned that those who do not adhere to the approved vaccine schedule, known as the World Health Organization’s “quadrivalent” series, would be fined 1,000 euros ($1,294) for their first violation and up to 2,500 euros ($3,058) for subsequent violations.
Those against the vaccination also can be prosecuted and placed on a registry for five years.
“The law stipulates that anyone who receives a vaccination for a disease through the ‘quadrivalent’ series would face a fine of 1,000 euros,” the board wrote. “For those who do not receive vaccination in the standard sequence, a fine of 2,500 euros could be imposed.”
In a subsequent blog post, the authorities said that the measure should have been applied years ago.
“This issue has been debated for years and we considered it insufficient,” the board wrote. “We might have put our head in the sand for too long.”
Anti-vaccination campaigns have spread among minority groups, such as children from migrant or Roma families.
The Greek government has struggled for years to push a vaccination policy that balances the needs of both parents and children. It imposed strict, though ultimately unsuccessful, measures to limit what it considered to be unvaccinated children.
Tensions between the government and the anti-vaccination movement have often taken an ethnic dimension, with Greek Orthodox church leaders arguing that vaccination is tantamount to abortion.
The church has been severely criticized for spreading rumors and spreading false information, which has led to numerous boycotts and calls for the creation of a government-backed immunization registry, with the aim of “quarantining those who spread anti-vaccination propaganda.”