Hospital head: Ministry official got COVID-19 vaccine early to avoid waste

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Agris Peedu. Source: Ministry of Finance.

Head of a Tallinn hospital has come to the defense of board member and Social Affairs Ministry Secretary-General Marika Priske, following media reports that the latter had received a coronavirus vaccine earlier than she should have.

As reported on ERR News, Priske, who is secretary-general at the very ministry overseeing the health sector, as well as a board member of the North Estonia Regional Hospital (PERH) in Tallinn, received the vaccine in early January, a move which on the surface looked like queue-jumping, since she was not a priority front-line worker, and therefore a misuse of position.

However, PERH chief Agris Peedu told ERR's radio news Thursday that the vaccination was a case of a dose being left in an unplanned reserve which would otherwise have been discarded.

Peedu said that PERH started its vaccination plan ahead of the Christmas arrival of the first coronavirus vaccines in Estonia, a plan which prioritized front-line staff coming into contact with carriers of the virus, with other staff only being added to the list later, for left-over doses.

Hospital chief: I want to correct media picture of hospital wrongdoing

This led to a situation where staff sometimes registered for a coronavirus inoculation, only to not turn up at the allotted time, which then requires quickly finding an alternative recipient from the hospital's personnel roster to avoid the dose going to waste – once opened, a vaccine vial cannot then be re-stored, he said.

Priske received her vaccine from a dose left over in PERH's psychiatric clinic, Peedu added.

Peedu was keen to put this right publicly. He said: "Our main goal has been to ensure that we do not have to see information coming out in the media that we have mislaid a dose," Peedu said.

Vaccine information still lacking in Russian

Just over 80 percent of doctors and around half of nurses and other caregivers have received the coronavirus vaccination, Peedu added.

Work also needed doing in getting the message across to the Russian-speaking populace, which would include translation work, he added.

Peedu said he had been vaccinated as well, adding work at the hospital would be hard to countenance without.

Estonia's vaccine supply have mostly come from U.S./German company PfizerBioNTech, though a small proportion of vaccines have come from Moderna, another U.S. Firm.

Peedu said this was no bad thing, since Moderna attached stricter conditions to its vaccines, which, he said, created more tension and issues.

As for future vaccines, he added that while he would like the injection to be mandatory, in reality this would not happen, since the required legal coercion could not take place.

The process for front-line medical workers, who also can decline the vaccine if they wish, is still not complete, while the next priority group will be the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

Over 25,000 people in Estonia have been vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus shots at the time of writing, over 6,000 of these with second doses (i.e. the complete course).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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