Toomas Sildam: Key officials and politicians should be vaccinated

Coronavirus vaccination.
Coronavirus vaccination. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The previous government made a mistake that Kaja Kallas' cabinet must now rectify. I am talking about the need to quickly vaccinate politicians and public servants who are in charge of the state and solving the healthcare crisis, journalist Toomas Sildam writes in the weekly comment section.

This is also reflected in the recent debate over whether Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs Marika Priske was right to be vaccinated or not. The term "elite vaccinee" quickly made its way into popular vocabulary as did calls for the secretary general to resign or be punished in some other form.

There is no need.

In truth, Jüri Ratas' second government should have decided in December last that ministers as well as secretaries general and other officials who are instrumental in solving the healthcare crisis will be vaccinated early on. It is not a matter of some people being more equal or more important than ordinary citizens. Key government officials and politicians becoming COVID-19 patients has the potential to disrupt chain of command and jeopardize continuity.

None of it vindicates or protects people who get access to vaccines or who facilitate priority vaccination simply based on someone being an acquaintance, friend or classmate. That truly is unfair.

I'm sure politicians find it uncomfortable and unpopular to say they will put themselves ahead of front-line workers, nursing home residents, teachers and policemen in the vaccination plan. It is far safer and more politically correct to talk about how they will be vaccinated once their family physician calls them based on an alphabetical list.

However, one cannot effectively run a country in fear of making inconvenient decisions. Instead, necessary decisions need to be made and explained to the public.

The opponents will say that since the government decided not to prioritize politicians and officials in terms of vaccination, this approach needs to be maintained and that the policy cannot be changed. It can be changed should the new government so decide. Precisely as recommended by head of the government's COVID-19 scientific advisory council Irja Lutsar recently. People holding key strategic offices should be vaccinated first, she admitted on the "Ringvaade" talk show.

This saw professor Lutsar come under heavy fire from anti-vaccination advocates and personal attacks so jarring that both Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and her predecessor Jüri Ratas described them as shameful, low and ugly. President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere said that the public assault on the head of the COVID-19 scientific council shows that we are moving from the era of random hate speech to one of precisely aimed threats.

The government should now emulate Irja Lutsar's straightforwardness to make and communicate a rational decision in terms of when will key officials and politicians be vaccinated lest every well-known person vaccinated is to answer class hatred-inspired questions of when they plan to resign moving forward.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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