Virologist: Elderly, other at-risk groups priority for any COVID-19 vaccine

Professor Irja Lutsar.
Professor Irja Lutsar. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Any coronavirus vaccine which becomes available will be administered as priority to those defined as at-risk groups, including the elderly, virologist and head of the government's coronavirus scientific council Professor Irja Lutsar told daily Postimees.

Frontline workers such as in the health sector and those with chronic illnesses would be defined in the at-risk demographic, along with senior citizens, and healthy adults and children may initially have to make do with a regular flu vaccine and following hygiene and social distancing best practices, Lutsar said in the Postimees interview (link in Estonian).

While over 18 million COVID-19 cases, and 690,000 deaths related to the virus, have occurred worldwide since the pandemic began at the end of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, those figures for Estonia stand at 2,079 (risen to 2,080 following the interview - ed.) and 63 respectively, Lutsar went on.

Developing a vaccine in Estonis is not viable in part precisely because of these relatively low rates, Professor Lutsar went on, though the country can partake in trials of vaccines developed in countries like the U.S. and U.K., an already trialed clinically in Brazil and South Africa, among other places, she said.

Effectiveness of vaccines can only fully be evaluated a year or two after inoculation she added, meaning that the first indications of trialed vaccines and there effects on humans will only be available from the end of this year and early next year – tests on animals have been disseminated more so far

It is still too early to say what type of vaccine is likely to emerge, or if other methodologies such as healthy volunteers in their 20s willingly becoming infected with the virus – frowned on by medical ethics bodies – will get adopted; anecdotal reports of side effects such as fever and skin rashes close to the injection site have emerged already, though the scope of subject numbers has so far still been to small to be sure less common adverse reactions will not happen.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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