Estonia needs to decide priority vaccination

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First COVID-19 vaccinations in Tallinn (photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia could vaccinate people in charge of overcoming the crisis and top politicians next to front line medical staff. Professor of virology, member of the government's COVID-19 scientific council Irja Lutsar said on "Ringvaade" on Friday that while the council has not discussed vaccinating people occupying strategic positions in the country, she believes that key politicians should be inoculated.

Lutsar said, in terms of why she believes people in strategic positions, including key minister should be vaccinated, that not everything can be done remotely and the government cannot operate exclusively via Zoom.

Head of the Health Board Üllar Lanno said that countries have gone down one of three paths in Europe. Some first made the vaccine available to top executives, some to nursing homes and some to medical professionals. Estonia decided in favor of the latter as only they can ensure the continued operation of the healthcare system.

"It was the only sensible choice, to start with medical staff who must see to the severest cases of COVID-19 on a daily basis," Lanno said.

Next came the vaccination of nursing home residents and staff. Unlike Latvia, Estonia has managed to keep its healthcare system from collapsing. Lanno added that the entire government or everyone in charge of vital tasks falling ill at the same time would raise the question of what next.

"We should definitely be able to answer the question of whether we could immediately replace these people. If not, then I believe they should be vaccinated," the Health Board director said.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik said that over 40 percent of nursing homes have been vaccinated by today.

Nursing home residents should have received the first dose by the end of the first week of February, with those over 70 and with certain chronic conditions prioritized. Vaccination of people in charge of vital services and front-line staff will follow.

The latter include support services providers and people in charge of solving the crisis, Kiik said.

"Once we get to vital services providers and front-line workers, the question of those occupying key strategic positions is raised. We have not prioritized the government or constitutional institutions," the minister added.

Kiik said that the new government needs to decide this matter as vaccine deliveries are being ramped up. Vaccination could be realistic in February or March.

Heads of Riigikogu Social Affairs Committee not in favor of preferential vaccination

The Riigikogu currently has a single member diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 30 close contacts. The early January outbreak covered 13 patients, some from the Riigikogu and some from the Government Office, with a total of 53 close contacts. Candidate for committee chair Siret Kotka and deputy chair Helmen Kütt find that MPs should not be vaccinated ahead of the curve.

Kotka said that the work of the Riigikogu has been organized to make use of digital tools and that holding sessions both on the floor and in committees remotely is a possibility.

Kütt said that priority vaccination of MPs would clash with people's sense of justice. "The Riigikogu is not a privileged group. Rather, we should prioritize the vaccination of teachers, caregivers and perhaps even cashiers," she remarked.

"As concerns the president and members of the government, [their vaccination] should have been included in the plan from the first," Kütt added.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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