Over 200 front-line healthcare workers received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, the first day it had been administered in Estonia.
Health-care workers in eight institutions in the hardest-hit regions of the country, Ida-Viru County, Tallinn and Tartu were inoculated, starting with resident doctor at the Kohtla-Järve Medical Center (Kohtla-Järve Tervisemaja) Jelena Rozinko. By day's end, 207 people had received the vaccine, which arrived in Estonia on Saturday.
The vaccination process is to continue through the last week of 2020 in hospitals, ambulance centers and other emergency medical centers, the Ministry of Social Affairs said Monday morning, via a press release.
Vaccination of health care workers will also start this week in other hospitals, ambulance centers and emergency medical centers across Estonia, the Ministry of Social Affairs announced, with capacity for the inoculation of close to 5,000 available under the current contract with Pfizer/BioNTech.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) tweeted that the pan-EU vaccination program was: "Great news for our healthcare professionals and most vulnerable at first, and to all soon."
Heartwarming to see how COVID-19 vaccinations in and have started. Great news for our healthcare professionals and most vulnerable at first and to all soon. We are in this together and #EU cooperation is key for successfully beating the virus. #EUvaccinationdays pic.twitter.com/JEuKLolgMk— Jüri Ratas (@ratasjuri) December 27, 2020
Hundreds of thousands more vaccines due from several suppliers
Vaccines from other suppliers are also due, in larger numbers, from other suppliers, as well as more from Pfizer/Biotech, pending European Commission authorization. The vaccines are procured jointly by the EU.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said: "We also hope that the vaccines ... will soon reach marketing authorization stage, then the quantities of vaccines arriving in Estonia will also increase."
Estonia is to purchase coronavirus vaccines for around 660,000 people from AstraZeneca, around 300,000 people from Jannsen Pharmaceutica NV, 330,000 from Curevac, 117,000 from Moderna, as well as another 300,000 from Pfizer/BioNTech.
Medical personnel in Tallinn, Tartu, Ida-Viru County get vaccines first
Sunday's vaccinations saw over 50 workers receive the injection at the Ida-Viru Central Hospital (Ida-Viru keskhaiglas) and the East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH) each, with 30 personnel at Tartu's ambulance center being vaccinated. The West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) and Tartu University Hospital (see gallery below) had 20 personnel vaccinated in each case, with 10 people being immunized at the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) and the Jürgenson family doctors' center (Jürgensoni perearstikeskus), a private medical center in Tallinn. A further five personnel at the University family doctors' center (Ülikooli perearstikeskus) in Tartu were inoculated.
The first batch of vaccines will be rolled out to 20 hospitals and to over 50 emergency family medical centers, for family doctors and nurses, as well as to three ambulance centers nationwide.
Administering the vaccines in terms of timing and quantities is down to individual authorities, and the vaccines ordered via the Health Board (Terviseamet).
Vaccines part of EU procurement
Two further companies, Sanofi and Norvavax, may also supply Estonia with vaccines; in the second case, negotiations are still on-going with the European Commission.
Training for the Pfizer-/BioNTech vaccines is to take place on December 29 to enable a wider roll-out; training for the initial doses administered Sunday had taken place on Christmas Day.
The vaccinations are aimed primarily at the protection of societal groups at risk from the coronavirus either due to the nature of their work, or the likelihood of developing more severe infection, with the risk of death. It is also aimed at reducing the burden on the health-care sector and the economy as a whole, to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate a return to the normal functioning of society, the social affairs ministry says.
The first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have been packaged in five-dose vials, with possible wastage taken into account; very precise dosing can enable up to six doses from the one vial, the ministry says.
Editor: Andrew Whyte