The pandemic has struck the Greek-Australian community particularly hard, especially those living in Victoria.

The second wave of the virus last year claimed the lives of 150 Melburnians of Greek heritage as it swept through aged care homes, such as St Basil’s in Fawkner, Epping Gardens and the Grace of Mary Greek Cypriot Nursing home at Epping. The latest wave, however, has not been kind to members of the Greek community of Melbourne either, with at least 24 deaths of people of Greek heritage, according to Melburnian funeral directors who spoke with Neos Kosmos.

The danger is still looming as two Greek-Australian institutions – St John’s College and Alphington Grammar – were among the 49 schools shut down in Victoria in the last ten days.

On Friday, it was business as usual for Nikos Cakes at Eaton Mall in Oakleigh’s Greek precinct, following a two-day closure due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19.

The Municipality of Monash, a hub for Greek Melburnians, recorded 40 new cases in the last 24 hours, and there are already 339 active cases in the region.

Dr John Malios, a semi-retired medical practitioner with more than 50 years of experience and a general practice in Oakleigh, told Neos Kosmos he has become “aware that many of our population have not availed themselves of a COVID vaccination which is being demonstrated today by the statistics”.

READ MORE: Nikos Cakes opens for business following brief closure due to staff member testing positive to COVID-19

“I am aware of all the concerns and, in many cases, unsubstantiated claims regarding the safety of the vaccines. The world has seen the most intense development and testing of vaccines in the history of medical advancement such that we have been delivered with very safe and effective vaccines for COVID,” he told Neos Kosmos, urging people to listen to the advice of medical experts rather than hearsay.

He is particularly concerned about the cases found in schools around the state.

“Caring for younger grandchildren who may have an infection with very little symptoms is an obvious risk for many of our retired population,” he said.

“I therefore urge everyone to arrange for COVID immunisation if they have not done so. All members of our community including the younger population need to be vaccinated to help control the spread the disease. Vaccination however is very important personally for any individual over the age of 60.”

World-renowned researcher, Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos, has worked hard to get the message out taking time to attend forums and webinars in order to answer people’s questions and address concerns.

“I have said at various forums that everyone who is not vaccinated will get COVID-19,” she told Neos Kosmos.

“The vaccinated will not catch COVID. But, in some rare cases, even if they do, it will be very minor due to the vaccine protecting them against serious symptoms. But, as the virus is in the community it will keep on mutating to the point that it will become more infectious and more dangerous.”

READ MORE: At least 25 Greek Australians dead due to COVID-19, and two Greek schools are in lockdown

Experts are concerned that, as the city’s sixth lockdown lifts earlier than expected on 26 October, those without vaccination coverage could be at risk from the virus.

“All vaccines and medications and medical procedure have some side effects,” Dr Malios said. “Fortunately the serious side effects from any of the COVID-19 vaccines are very rare and, more importantly, we know how to recognise them and treat them early. Minor side effects such as a sore arm and mild short lasting unwellness can all be resolved quickly so concern regarding a side effect is not a good reason to avoid a vaccine but if you are worried, please discuss these concerns with your doctor.”