A large-scale COVID vaccination drive for asylum seekers has started on three Greek Aegean Islands. In Europe, some migrant populations are prone to "low vaccine uptake," according to a new study.
On Thursday (June 3), Greek authorities launched a vaccination campaign for tens of thousands of asylum seekers living in government-run facilities. People living in accommodation centers on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos in the Aegean Sea were the first to be vaccinated.
According to officials with the Greek Health Ministry, the program used the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Later this week, the program is supposed to be rolled out on other Greek islands and the mainland, the officials added.
"Around 60,000 migrants and asylum seekers currently live in camps, shelters and government-subsidized apartments in Greece," the Associated Press (AP) reported. Around one in four of them are children and thus currently ineligible to receive a jab.
Low vaccine uptake among migrants
According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus database, COVID-19 has killed more than 12,000 people in Greece, a country of 11 million. Government figures published Thursday show that nearly 20% of all Greek residents are now fully vaccinated.
In a technical report published Thursday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) called on European Union member countries to "ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and ensure equitable uptake'' for migrants and the wider population.
"Certain migrant groups have a known range of risk factors for low vaccine uptake and may face barriers to accessing health systems," the ECDC said on Twitter.
In Germany, only one in five of all asylum seekers living in accommodation centers reportedly want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, state government officials said last month.
In Italy, a health official recently said that over 700,000 foreign citizens are currently "invisible" and do not have access to anti-COVID-19 vaccination campaigns because they don't have a health insurance card or a fiscal code.