Social ministry would offer elderly flu vaccines for free

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik. Source: Margarita Mironova/ERR

The Ministry of Social Affairs would like to see elderly people get vaccinated for the influenza for free before the next flu wave. This year, care home residents were vaccinated for free but the action would be extended to everyone aged 65 and up.

Even with the Health Board confirming on Friday, December 11, that there have been no confirmed cases of influenza in Estonia during fall and winter, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) reminded everyone that the flu claimed the lives of more than 100 people in 2018.

"Currently, the plan is to move toward extending vaccinations for the elderly people, meaning those aged 65 and up. There have been no official decisions, legislation yet on the topic. We must look at budgetary capabilities, we must look at assessed demand and the benefits, but there is currently a rather supportive position. Of course, this means that the state's orders must be greater in size," Kiik said.

The social minister added that demand for the flu vaccine has been greater worldwide this year and production has not been able to keep up. Marje Oona, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Tartu, said she believes Estonia can avoid the situation of a lack of vaccines next year.

"We normally took all doses for these risk groups from the general supply. That supply was very small. And it was not nearly enough for risk groups, but if we ensure a state program for vaccinations for the elderly, we must consider the extra doses for those who want to get vaccinated as well. I foresee the situation being much better next fall," Oona said.

She noted that vaccinations for the coronavirus will not stand in the way of Estonia's general immunization plan. A wider range of vaccines could turn out cheaper for the state than avoiding it altogether.

"If we look at it from the resource side, then vaccines is one of the areas of expense for health care, where vaccinating for many diseases is not only cost-effective, many of them are profitable. Meaning, each unit of money we spend on vaccines avoids a disease prevents so many different consequences in society that the spent money actually saves directly on costs. Not only on public health. In that sense, it is clear that vaccinations will go on. Certainly for the diseases in the immunization plan," Oona said.

Social minister Tanel Kiik hopes to confirm the free flu vaccine plan for the elderly over the coming weeks.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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