Doctors explain low weekend vaccination figures with shortage of doses

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Vaccination. Source: ERR

Estonia vaccinates over a thousand people every day during the workweek, with half of people receiving their second vaccine dose. Family doctors are not keen on inoculating people on the weekends because vaccine quantities are usually used up on workdays.

The Health Board's emergency medical chief Urmas Sule said that there is no real need for vaccination on the weekends because Estonia is seeing small quantities of vaccines and most doses are administered immediately.

Sule said that occasions where vaccine doses are stored for longer are rare. "We are talking about isolated cases. Storing the [Pfizer/BioNTech] vaccine is a challenge because it needs to be done at a temperature of -70 degrees. The Health Board has agreements with organizers of immunization for when the vaccine is delivered," he explained.

"Rather, the reason is that we do not have that many doses," Sule said. Weekend vaccination will become a real issue once quantities increase.

Weekends have so far been used to inoculate certain target groups. Sule gave the example of dentists. "Sticking to the vaccination schedule and putting one together in the first place is a major challenge for all institutions," he said.

The board's chief of emergency medicine also said that as family medicine centers operate during the workweek, doctors need days off. "Those in charge of vaccination must also retain a personal life of some sort," he added.

Family doctors administer doses inside the workweek

Last Sunday saw 12 people receive the first dose of vaccine and 45 people the second. To compare, a total of 1,251 people were given their first shot on Wednesday.

Member of the board of the Estonian Family Medicine Association Karmen Joller said the reason is simply that family medicine centers can administer the doses they have before the weekend rolls around. "We can administer the doses we are being sent in three hours at our center," Joller said.

She said that smaller family medicine centers do not need to distribute vaccination on different days of the week. If the person cannot come in, they are offered a new appointment when the next batch of vaccine arrives. Joller admitted that it could prove necessary in major centers.

People are less likely to need to see a doctor because of other health problems during the coronavirus measures period, which is why the general workload is not significant, at least at the Kivimäe Family Medicine Center, while doctors are consulted more often over the phone.

Joller said that while her center has vaccinated people on some weekends, there is usually no need. "We have vaccinated people on just two days during the weekend. If employees want it that way or find it more convenient, it remains a possibility. One day we had planned for the weekend proved unnecessary as we managed to vaccinate everyone before the workweek ended," she said.

Vaccination to move to workplaces and vaccination rooms

Family medicine centers are notified of deliveries on certain dates, meaning that the day is spent waiting for the delivery to arrive. Joller said that modern technology makes it possible to monitor shipments and that such solutions should be made use of.

Joller also said that low weekend vaccination rates will not mean much going forward because while risk groups and healthcare workers are vaccinated in medical centers, front-line staff will already be inoculated at work.

Once vaccination becomes available to everyone, efforts will continue in family medicine centers, special vaccination rooms and additional locations should it prove necessary.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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