Health & Science

Extension of COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in Greece deemed unconstitutional due to lack of reassessment

The Council of State of Greece considers the extension of the suspension for healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 is unconstitutional because it lacks reassessment based on scientific epidemiological data.

COVID-19 vaccine injection
Illustration | © Steven Cornfield

The Council of State of Greece ruled on November 24 that the extension of vaccine mandates applied to workers in healthcare facilities until the end of 2022 was unconstitutional.

Greek highest administrative court considers the mandate lacked re-evaluation based on scientific data and was “contrary to the constitutional principle of proportionality.”

In the ruling, judges write that decisions that may “constitute a serious interference in fundamental human rights” must be applied during the “absolutely necessary period of time” and “must be reviewed periodically by the competent state authorities depending on the existing epidemiological data and the evolution of valid scientific assumptions.”

The law extending the suspension of workers in healthcare facilities who were not vaccinated against COVID-19 was issued on April 14, 2022.

But for the court, the decision applied for a period of 8 months “clearly exceeds what is reasonable without having been re-assessed with scientific and epidemiological data.” The administration told the court it planned on evaluating the epidemiological conditions at the end of the year.

Reacting to the court decision before it was published, Minister of Health Thanos Plevris stated he wanted to “assess the decision in its entirety,” and wanted to “assure the citizens that all necessary measures will be taken to make sure public health is not endangered by the implementation of the decision.” The minister also noted the suspension of unvaccinated health workers was initially ruled as a constitutional measure by the court.

In October, Mr Plevris considered that “unvaccinated health workers have no place in the health system, because they do not believe in science.”

Greece is one of the European Union countries to have imposed the COVID-19 vaccination to its healthcare practitioners, along with France, Germany and Italy.

In all countries, the number of healthcare professionals who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is extremely small.

But Italy with the new far-right government formed by Georgia Meloni accepted on November 2 that the 4,000 healthcare workers who were not vaccinated take back their position. The matter is currently being debated in France.

The Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDN), the second largest trade union body in Greek healthcare, had seized the Council of State back in April to cancel the extension of the vaccine mandate for health professionals. In a statement published Friday, POEDN was satisfied by the “brave decision” from the court.

POEDN argued the extension wasn’t based on scientific epidemiological data when in the meantime the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were lifted and the protocols in the hospitals were relaxed since mid-April.

POEDN has always been in favor of vaccination and underlined in the statement they “did not want to create negative reflexes in society about vaccines, since we owe the current good epidemiological situation in the country for a large part to mass vaccination.”

Read more news about Greece

Council of State and administrative justice decision, November 2022, unsecure access

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