Stories of people jumping the queue for coronavirus vaccinations reported in the media have led to the need to review Estonia's vaccination procedures, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Thursday.
In recent days two stories about officials jumping the queue at North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) and Valga Hospital have been reported by the media.
One cases involved vaccines being offered to acquaintances not on the at risk list outside of the hospital and the other a board member accepting a vaccine to use up the last dose from an open bottle.
Speaking at a government press conference, Kallas said: "All these cases show that maybe we should look over the vaccination arrangement. To see how, if there are extra doses to use, to alert the people who will be vaccinated next. For that to run smoothly and for healthcare, care home employees and residents would be vaccinated first and then people of the risk group. We will discuss how to make it better and clearer."
She added: "It should be understandable and traceable for everybody too see when it is your turn."
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said there is a certain amount of freedom in health care institutions about how will they can arrange vaccinations in their institution.
"It's not always possible to start with 100 percent of health care workers. There can be moments when other employees of health care institutions are vaccinated if it's considered necessary," Kiik said.
He said that PERH offered the possibility of vaccinations to members of the hospital's council who are not front line employees, but who are considered employees of the hospital and whose vaccination is justified. "The question is the queue. The process should have started later," Kiik said.
The minister said the cases discussed in media cannot be accessed on the same scale.
"The problem with Valga Hospital was that the vaccination was offered outside the hospital in large quantities, it was not the last dose from a bottle which has to be used within six hours," Kiik said.
Discussing social affairs ministry Secretary-General and board member at the North Estonian Regional Hospital Marika Priske, Kiik said vaccination should be transparent and according to the program.
"I personally wouldn't have accepted the offer, but it is not a criminal offense. It was PERH's offer to her as a member of the council and somebody who spends a lot of time in the hospital." Kiik said that Priske has admitted that she regrets her decision to accept the vaccine.
Valga Hospital's Margus Ulst was sacked from his position because he offered his acquaintances from the Rotary Club vaccination outside the queue. On Wednesday (January 27) daily newspaper Eesti Päevaleht wrote about the Priske jumping the queue.
So far, 78 percent of the Estonian health care workers have been vaccinated.
Health Board advises vaccinating institutions to prepare buffer lists
The Health Board has asked hospitals and other institutions performing vaccinations against COVID-19 in Estonia to prepare lists of people to be invited to get a vaccination in the event when someone refuses the jab, Director General of the Health Board Üllar Lanno told newspaper Postimees on Thursday.
Lanno pointed out that a survey conducted at the end of last year showed that four percent of residents do not want to be vaccinated and up to 20 percent are considering refusal as an option.
"A survey conducted last summer meanwhile shows that 60 percent of the Estonian population was ready to get a vaccination immediately," Lanno added.
The Health Board has recommended relevant institutions to think also about scenarios where some people on the vaccination priority list do not want to be vaccinated.
"We requested providers of healthcare services to set up a buffer pool in order for them to have a list of people ready to whom a doctor can make a phone call to invite them to get a vaccination," Lanno said.
"Hospitals must have a reserve of those to be vaccinated ready in order for doses not to go to waste," the head of the Health Board added.
According to Lanno, hospitals can draw up their backup lists based on the Health Board's vaccination plan that shows what groups of people are to be vaccinated next and in what order.
"That's what doctors can use as a guideline," he said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino