The members of the scientific team were of the view that a booster shot should be given to people above the age of 60, said Dr Maria Koliou. Only Professor Petros Karayiannis disagreed, taking the line that everyone over 50 should have a third jab.
Speaking on a radio show on Thursday, Dr Koliou, explaining the reasoning, made the surprising admission that there was no data on “breakthrough infections” – serious cases of fully vaccinated people that had to be admitted to hospital – for ages below 60, so the scientists reached their decision based on international bibliography. It was also influenced, she said, “by clinical observations by one of our associates in the hospital,” where it “appeared” the breakthrough infections affected people in the 60 to 65 age group and above, and the immunosuppressed.
It is astonishing that 19 months into the pandemic there is no data which the scientific team can refer to when making its decisions, having to depend instead on the “clinical observations by an associate” at one hospital. What have all those highly-paid officials at the health ministry been doing? Had it not occurred to any of them that setting up a data collection system would be helpful to the decision-making of the scientific team and the government, which was ruling by decrees, allegedly based on the epidemiological data? What data was it referring to?
Asked whether there was information from hospitals about treatment of patients, how many in hospital were fully vaccinated, how many fully vaccinated patients had passed away, Dr Koliou said “this is what we also want to know,” but “there are no complete statistical data, which is why we depend on clinical observation of the colleague working in the hospital.”
This at least explains why the health ministry never hired a data analyst to help the scientific team come to its conclusions. There was simply no data, apart from the daily positive cases, number of deaths, age of the deceased, number of people hospitalised and the positivity rate. Was it so difficult to collect data relating to the age of each case hospitalised, the ages of the positive cases, the ages of the vaccinated that were hospitalised etc? The authorities had all this data, but, scandalously, failed to see the value of entering it into a system so it could be processed and analysed.
Why had the scientific team never demanded the setting up of a data-collection system (one person at each hospital was all that was needed) and the hiring of data analysts to help it draft its proposals? The sample may have been too small to lead to indisputable conclusions, but it could still have given insights into how the pandemic was developing and a clearer indication of what ages needed to get the booster jab, instead of relying on international bibliography and the gut instinct of the members of the scientific team.