Estonia hopes to vaccinate 100,000 against COVID-19 in start of 2021

Vaccine (photo is illustrative).
Vaccine (photo is illustrative). Source: NIAID/Flickr/Creative Commons

Estonia hopes to vaccinate some 100,000 people in the first months of 2021, with immunity developing over a month. Health care workers and risk group people will be prioritized for the first batch of vaccines.

Instead of Christmas, many Europeans are eagerly awaiting for December 29, when pharma companies Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to receive a permit from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Moderna also expects to get a permit on January 12, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Although there are no permits yet, the vaccines are being produced. "Considering the extraordinary pandemic, there have been unusual steps. Normally, production begins after permits have been given out but this time they have happened in parallel, allowing for vaccinations to begin right after permits are handed," Kristin Raudsepp, head of the Estonian Agency of Medicines, explained.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have announced that the efficiency of their vaccines exceeds 90 percent. Raudsepp said the efficiency is first based on press releases, but there is reason to hope they are good.

"As far as we know today, immunity develops after the second injection, meaning the first injection has not given people complete immunity in trials but the second injection has, so we can count on that happening in a month," Raudsepp said.

The older a person gets, the more difficult it becomes to develop immunity and that is why there was still uncertainty a few months ago surrounding the efficiency of the vaccines for elderly people.

"It seems suitable for me, as far as I know. I cannot provide more specific info at this point, but vaccinating the elderly has certainly been a principle that pharmaceutical companies have studied. There is enough information on it," Raudsepp explained.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said the initial plan is to vaccinate health care workers, care home residents, people with chronic diseases and people aged 70 and up.

"There could be enough vaccines for some 100,000 Estonians arriving in Estonia in the first quarter of 2021," Kiik said.

The larger amounts should reach Estonia in spring and summer, after other pharma producers such as AstraZeneca receive permits. Estonia has ordered a large number of vaccines from the company.

"We currently do not have data that shows how long immunity lasts, that is the most important part," Kiik said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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