Estonia signs agreement with AstraZeneca for coronavirus vaccine

Tanel Kiik.
Tanel Kiik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia has signed a pre-purchase agreement for the coronavirus vaccine with the drug giant AstraZeneca which should provide Estonia with 1,330,000 doses of the vaccination which can be used by 665,000 people.

Testing of the COVID-19 vaccine in Oxford, UK, is in full swing and AstraZeneca expects to apply for supervisory approval as early later year. The European Commission has signed a framework agreement to buy 400 million doses in advance and Estonia has entered into an agreement within this framework.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said: "Ideally, our wish is to get the necessary dose to vaccinate for half the population. The first order is undoubtedly for risk groups, they are the elderly, they are the chronically ill, frontline workers in health and social care and other public institutions."

The price of the transaction is confidential but is in the millions of euros. The exact content of the letter of intent is also confidential, but the unprecedented pre-purchase of vaccines gives the developers money and the purchaser hope for the vaccine if the latter passes the screening and testing screen.

"The vaccine offered to the general public must be safe, effective and clinically tested, no compromises on quality can be made here," Kiik said, while acknowledging the vaccine may not last very long.

"The potential side effects with this vaccine can be short-lived," He said. "We're not talking about serious side effects and serious concerns here, but temporary side effects that any drug inevitably has."

The agreement means sharing the risks, including compensating for possible side effects. For example, the swine flu vaccine used a decade ago caused narcolepsy in some cases. Virology professor Andres Merits said safety requirements will certainly not be lowered but the pressure to create a vaccine quickly will leave its mark.

"Anything which has been tested for such a short time could cause some concern, or at least caution. It's quite likely that these vaccines work and their side effects aren't very great," Merits explained.

"But at the same time, how can a pharmaceutical company or any of the companies take responsibility for things they just don't know in principle. Only [Vladimir] Putin knows that his vaccine gives a two-year immune response based on a two-month or two-week test. Others do not have a time machine" he said. Merits said he is ready to use the approved vaccine himself.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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