Greek Australian doctors combat sluggish pace of vaccine rollout

Greek Australian doctors are working to combat the sluggish pace of the vaccine rollout in the wake of statistics which show that only 13 per cent of Australia’s eligible population are fully vaccinate, and 25.3 per cent are partially vaccinated.

Associate Professor Marinis Pirpiris, President of the Hellenic Medical Society of Australia, was particularly concerned regarding misinformation circulating on social media and has spearheaded a campaign to inform community groups of the need to protect themselves.

“We wanted to commence an initiative to make people more informed about the need for a vaccination, and their ability to have their questions answered by their GPs,” he told Neos Kosmos. 

In a letter addressed to many community organisations, the Hellenic Medical Society urges community leaders to work together to encourage the Greek community in Australia to protect themselves from the virus.

“On behalf of Melbourne’s leading Greek community groups, the Hellenic Medical Society of Australia, is writing to ask you to visit your doctor or a vaccination centre and get vaccinated as soon as possible. COVID-19 is dangerous and is not going away any time soon. According to a study at the University of South Australia, at least 80 per cent of Australians over 70 years are at high risk of contracting severe COVID-19 or dying from it. Our most world-renowned doctors and scientists are urging all of us to get vaccinated urgently. This includes our physicians, surgeons, scientists and general practitioners. The virus and its future variants will be with us for years. We can’t afford to ‘wait it out’,” states the letter.

“We recognise that some have questions and reservations about taking the vaccine. Please discuss these issues with your GP as soon as possible. The vaccines have been assessed by some of our most trusted and eminent Australian scientists and specialists. The vaccines are extremely effective at saving lives and preventing serious illness, hospitalisations and long-term health problems and disability,” the letter states.

Associate Professor Pirpiris said that it was important to spearhead this initiative because “people may not understand the data or have a fully informed appreciation of the vaccination and how it affects their level of safety,” he said. “They may not appreciate the risks of the vaccine as compared to the risk of the disease, and they may also have a reluctance in Australia because we are fortunate that we can close our borders and have so far controlled the virus, but this is not a long-term solution.”

The doctors are working with the Greek Community of Melbourne and other organisations so that people can be better informed.

The President of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) Bill Papastergiadis OAM called not only for the support of other organisations but of all Greek Australians: “Whilst I appreciate people’s apprehension, there is simply no doubt that the only way out of this pandemic mess is through vaccination. Our borders will only open when we are vaccinated. Our lives will only return to resemble something like the ones we enjoyed once we are vaccinated. This is the message of all of our scientific experts and political leaders.”

His Emminence Archbishop Makarios reiterated the need for everyone to get vaccinated saying: “We must not forget that vaccination constitutes an act of self-protection, but, primarily, it is an act of love and solidarity for our family, community, and the wider society to which we belong. In order to achieve the best possible control of the pandemic, I urge you with paternal love and responsibility to get vaccinated against Covid-19, if you have not already done so. I pray that our benevolent God strengthens everyone and quickly frees humanity from this terrible ordeal of the pandemic.”

No sooner was the letter mailed out to different organisations on the mailing list of the Greek Community of Melbourne, that a number of positive responses of support were received. Within an hour of the message being mailed out a number of groups hopped aboard to support the initiative of the Hellenic Medical Society. These are the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, the Greek Community of Melbourne, the Federation of Greek Elderly Citizens Club, the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce (Vic), the Greek Precinct Association of Melbourne, the Panepirotic Federation of Australia, the Pan Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria, the Thessaloniki Association – The White Tower, the Hippocratic Optometric Service, the Hellenic RSL Sub-Branch and AHEPA Australia.

“We are at war with an invisible biological agent. There is no time to waste. We need to ensure we all remain healthy by seeing our general practitioners, discussing our concerns, rolling up our sleeves and getting vaccinated. We can no longer be complacent. The borders will not remain closed indefinitely,” the doctors stated.

On his part, Dr Pirpiris warns that “the virus is not going away and is likely to persist”.

“As Australia moves towards herd immunity and the opening of borders, we are likely to see a greater load of disease coming into the country,” he said, while urging the community to be aware of what is happening in other countries, particularly in the Pacific, and to protect themselves by following expert medical advice. “People should make their own decision based on scientific data and not on information on social media,” he said.

If you need further information on the COVID-19 vaccines, please visit your general practitioner, call 1800 020 080 or send your questions to:”