Delivery difficulties to delay vaccination of 10,000 health care workers

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Source: Jassu Hertsmann / Ministry of Social Affairs.

6,825 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine arrived in Estonia on Monday, a third less than initially agreed to. The company's delivery difficulties have led to delays in the vaccination plan with Estonia set to be about 10,000 health care workers behind their plan.

Although many await the arrival of cars carrying Pfizer's vaccine, Monday's shipment left many health care workers disappointed, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday.

"The amounts that society expect are much larger than those actually delivered," said Health Board director Üllar Lanno.

"Seven boxes and 6,825 doses arrived today. We have to divide that by two and then we see the number of people. It is less than initially specified, by about a third," Lanno continued.

Maris Jesse, deputy secretary general at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that Pfizer's unilateral and unexpected decision to decrease shipment capacities let Estonia down.

"Noone was ready for the news on Friday, not a single European country. Those suffering now are health care workers, whose vaccinations would have started in the end of this week. We were forced to send a message to them, saying we can set the date of vaccinations only when we have been ensured about Pfizer's shipment capacities and dates," Jesse said.

Some 10,000 health care workers will have their vaccinations delayed by a week. Among those are outpatient specialists, dentists and pharmacy staff. Jesse said care home vaccinations will go forward as scheduled and the first 80+ people will be vaccinated in the end of January.

"We will not have to make defer when it comes to larger goals, but only because we left ourselves a small reserve just in case that can cover second doses," Jesse added.

Üllar Lanno noted: "I would optimistically look at AstraZeneca's vaccine, as they are currently applying for a permit in the European Medicines Agency. Their capacities for Estonia were also planned to be very large. But if that delivery is as low as it is now, we will likely be behind by about six months."

Estonia joined the EU pre-emption agreement with AstraZeneca in August. Upon completion of the vaccine, the manufacturer must provide Estonia with 1,330,000 doses for the vaccination of 665,000 people.

Pfizer's spokespeople denied an interview, noting that a restructuration in the developer's Belgian factory allows them to increase production capacities starting February 15, allowing Pfizer to meet the contractually agreed capacities by the end of the first quarter.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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