Former head of the emergency department of the Health Board Martin Kadai said the slow pace of vaccinations in Estonia might originate from not being able to vaccinate in tents, the way testing is conducted, as storage conditions are not fit. He added also that the simultaneous vaccination of risk groups could be started now.
"While you always have to be flexible with vaccinations, you must always consider that it is a health care service and certain requirements apply on those services. And in that case, there cannot be any concessions made when it comes to the safety of vaccinating," Kadai told ERR.
He added that vaccinations are made complicated by the circumstance that the vaccine must be used within five days of it being taken out of the storage freezer. This can lead to a certain amount of delay in the process.
"It can be quite complicated for health care institutions to organize in a way that would not waste vaccines. If an establishment is allocated 100 vaccines for example, you must figure out how to put all the people in a schedule so that they would come out for vaccinations during the week," Kadai said.
"There have also been calls made that say Estonia should have bought vaccines without the sales permit of the European Medicines Agency. I think that would have been to great a risk to take. There have also been calls to conduct vaccinations in tents as COVID-19 testing is done - place a tent in the street, people drive through with their cars, get vaccinated and drive on. That is not reasonable," Kadai added.
The former Health Board official added that vaccinations are a health care service, which also includes advising the patient, the safe administration of the vaccine, documenting the service and then observing the patient for at least 15 minutes.
Risk groups should be vaccinated concurrently
Kadai said risk groups should be vaccinated concurrently: "We should not plan vaccinations in a way that we start vaccinating the next risk group only when the first one is nicely and correctly vaccinated. There is no point to develop this delay."
He added that the most complicated situation is in hospitals and care homes. "If the infection has reached a care home, it means there are dozens of infected people and most of them are automatically people in a risk group, which means they will more likely end up in the hospital for treatment, burdening hospitals as well," Kadai said, adding that care home residents need to vaccinated as soon as possible.
Vaccinating half of risk groups is a good result
Kadai said that if half of the health care workers, care home residents and other risk groups are vaccinated, it could be considered a great result. "If we can get just 50 percent of people in risk groups vaccinated, then the burden already drops. And we can go back into a normal rhythm a bit," he said.
He also pointed out that if the situation normalizes, people's sense of risk and interest toward vaccinations will decrease, but that does not mean vaccinations are unnecessary as the coronavirus will not disappear immediately after vaccines are readily available.
"I am convinced that this viral infection will not go anywhere with or without vaccines. It will stay in circulation. We cannot uproot it, even with vaccinations. Yes, if the epidemiological situation improves, the risk of infection is smaller but it will not be non-existent. It is reasonable to get vaccinated," Kadai concluded.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste