Immunization for COVID-19 started in Estonia on Sunday when resident doctor at the Kohtla-Järve Medical Center (Kohtla-Järve Tervisemaja) Jelena Rozinko became the first person to be given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Rozinko (24) said before receiving the shot that while she is not afraid of needles, the number of journalists and cameras present was a little daunting.
Rozinko is a young doctor from Kohtla-Järve who started her residency this fall after graduating from the University of Tartu. She was working as an assistant doctor at the COVID-19 ICU of the Ida-Viru Central Hospital in Kohtla-Järve in spring. The experience helped cement her interest in communicable diseases and Rozinko became a resident in the hospital's COVID-19 ward this fall.
Chairman of the board of the Ida-Viru Central Hospital Tarmo Bakler said in a short speech before the first vaccination took place that the Ida-Viru Central Hospital is part of the Estonian hospital network and it is only natural that medics in charge of treating COVID-19 patients are among the first to be vaccinated, alongside other medical professionals.
"Protecting our employees is important, which is why the Health Board's decision to immunize employees of hospitals bearing the brunt of the coronavirus first is perfectly clear. However, it needs to be said that the fact vaccination has started will not immediately change the situation – people still need to observe all safety precautions in hospitals and everywhere else," Bakler said.
Vaccinations begin in Tallinn and Tartu
In the capital Tallinn, chief of medicine for the West Tallinn Central Hospital Arkadi Popov was the first to be administered the vaccine around noon on Sunday.
Chairwoman of the Estonian Society of Family Physicians Le Vallikivi and board member Karmen Joller also received the vaccine at the Jürgenson Family Medicine Center.
The first vaccinations in Tartu took place at the Tartu University Hospital and the University Family Doctor's Center.
Newspaper Tartu Postimees reported that the first 20 people to get the vaccination were from the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Tartu University Hospital.
The first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived at the Health Board's central warehouse in Tallinn early on Saturday morning. The consignment consisted of 9,750 doses of the vaccine, which is enough to inoculate 4,875 people.
Employees of hospitals, emergency response units and family medicine centers in Ida-Viru County, Tallinn and Tartu will be vaccinated first, with the rest of Estonia following next week.
The aim of COVID-19 vaccination is to protect vulnerable groups, prevent and cut the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, lighten the workload of the healthcare system and to ensure normal social activity.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add information about vaccinations taking place in Tallinn and Tartu.
Editor: Marcus Turovski, Helen Wright