Estonia preparing to start COVID-19 vaccinations in January

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Patient receiving a vaccine. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

If the first batches of coronavirus vaccines may be delivered to Estonia in January 2021, vaccinating residents will start the same month, the Ministry of Social Affairs said on Tuesday.

State institutions and the healthcare system are making preparations to be able to start vaccination as soon as vaccines reach Estonia. The first vaccines may receive EU clearance by the end of the year and the first batches may be delivered to Estonia in January. 

At Tuesday's Cabinet sitting, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) presented the pre-purchase agreement for a COVID-19 vaccine between the European Commission and medicines manufacturer Moderna, which is one of the seven EU vaccine portfolio pre-purchase agreements that the government decided to join last week.

He explained the EU's common portfolio reduces risks the risk the vaccine will be delayed and that Estonia can start vaccinations at the same time as in other EU member states. 

Estonia has joined the agreements with vaccine manufacturers AstraZeneca, Jannsen Pharmaceutica NV, Pfizer/BioNTech, Curevac and Moderna. The Commission has also concluded an agreement with Sanofi, which Estonia can accede to later. Negotiations with the vaccine manufacturer Novavax are still underway.

Under the agreement with AstraZeneca, Estonia will obtain COVID-19 vaccine for approximately 600,000 people, under the agreement with Jannsen Pharmaceutica NV for about 300,000 people, under the agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech for about 300,000 people, under the agreement with Curevac for about 330,000 people and under the agreement with Moderna for about 117,000 people. 

Estonia has agreed the vaccines will be delivered to the Health Board, which will ensure necessary conditions for storage. Estonia will organize the transportation and distribution of the vaccines in accordance with a distribution plan that is currently being prepared.

Following the EU clearance, the vaccines will start arriving in Estonia gradually over a period of several quarters. Estonia has already decided which risk groups will be given priority.

"These are foremost healthcare and care workers, people working at healthcare institutions, residents of care institutions, elderly people and people with specific chronic illnesses, providers of vital services. There are a little over 300,000 people in the COVID-19 risk group in Estonia," Kiik said, adding that later on vaccination will be made available to all residents of Estonia who wish to get it. 

Pfizer and BioNTech have filed with the European Medicines Agency an application for conditional marketing authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2.

If the submitted data unequivocally and conclusively prove the vaccine's quality, safety and effectiveness, the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products Human Use (CHMP) is expected to offer its assessment of the vaccine at an emergency meeting on December 29. That date may change, however, in the course of the process of the evaluation of the data. 

The respective initial date for the approval of Moderna Biotech Spain's mRNA1273 vaccine is January 12.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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