While COVID-19 vaccinations are about to get underway in care homes in Estonia, with the aim of completing the process in around three weeks, around half of residents of at least one facility in South Estonia have declined to receive their inoculation, citing fears of what the injections might lead to, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday night.
The Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) says vaccination priority is being given to homes in two of the most heavily affected regions of the country, Harju and Ida-Viru counties, as well as on some of the western islands.
Spokesperson for the Health Insurance Fund Külli Friedemann said: "We prioritized things a little, as we had to take into account the fact that nursing homes are host to a population which can constitute a very heavy burden on hospitals if they contract coronavirus. This means that islands are definitely a risk area for infections, so safety should be ensured there. The same is true in areas where morbidity is currently higher (i.e. Harju and Ida-Viru counties – ed.)"
On Friday, all care home residents on the island of Hiiumaa who wised to receive the coronavirus vaccine were able to do so; ten percent waived their right to do so, AK reported.
A care home at Iru, near Jõelähtme, east of Tallinn, has seen an increase in interest in receiving the vaccine, from residents and staff alike, AK reported.
The home's director, Jaanika Luus, told AK that: "We currently are seeing 74 percent of residents giving their consent [to receiving a vaccination], and … 73 percent of staff."
Luus said the home plans to get its staff vaccinated in the next three days, starting from Monday.
Care homes have seen numerous COVID-19 outbreaks through the pandemic, among both residents and staff and have often been subject to restrictions curtailing visits by outsiders.
The first batches of coronavirus vaccine, formulated by biotech firm Pfizer/BioNTech, started arriving in Estonia at Christmas, with consignments from other firms including Moderna and Astra Zeneca expected soon.
However, Aet Olle, manager of a care home in Põlva, South Estonia, said around half of residents have said they do not want to receive inoculation.
"They are afraid for their health, they are afraid of what this vaccine may bring, they feel bad about their health, they are in a bad situation and they are afraid that they will be in an even worse one if they get the vaccine," Olle said.
At the same time, she said she was unaware when the facility would receive vaccine supplies.
Vaccine supplies are also contingent on future arrivals which come as part of a pan-EU procurement process, from several private sector providers, thought he Health Insurance Fund reiterated that it hopes to get the vaccination process completed in care homes, at least, in the next three weeks.
Editor: Andrew Whyte