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Anti-vaccine protesters hold Greek flags during a demonstration at Syntagma square, central Athens, on July 14, 2021. Thousands of anti-vaccine demonstrators gathered in Greece's two largest cities Wednesday over plans to make the vaccine available to children from age 15.Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press

Thousands of anti-vaccine demonstrators gathered in Greece’s two largest cities Wednesday to protest plans to make coronavirus vaccines available to children 15 and older.

The protests took place outside parliament in central Athens and in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Greek authorities have blamed a recent increase in confirmed virus cases on crowded entertainment venues. Under new restrictions, leisure facilities will only be open to people who are vaccinated. A mandatory vaccination policy is planned for workers at care facilities and hospitals.

In Athens, protesters chanted “Hands off our kids” and held up a banner reading, “We say no to vaccine poison.”

Just over half of Greece’s population has received at least one vaccine dose. Starting Thursday, people as young as 15 will be allowed to book a vaccination appointment with parental consent.

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