While the first shipment of the long-awaited AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Estonia on Sunday, the 7,200 doses are currently in storage as schools are still drawing up and sending their lists of vaccine applicants to the Ministry of Education and Research.
Last Thursday, February 4, the government approved a decision to add education workers to the list of frontline workers, prioritized for vaccinations. The next day, the Ministry of Social Affairs gave the Ministry of Education the responsiblity to gather up lists of vaccine applicants from education establishments.
This Monday, the education ministry sent out a letter to all schools in Estonia, asking for lists of all employees willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday, as vaccinations are planned to start next week.
Education ministry deputy secretary-general of secondary and adult education Robert Lippin admits that the ministry has not yet received lists from all schools. "There is no conclusive overview, as of today (Thursday - ed). All educational establishments have not presented their lists yet, but most have," Lippin said.
Therefore it is not yet known, how many teachers wish to get vaccinated. "There is no thorough analysis conducted yet, as all the data has not come in. The data we have shows that over 60 percent on average are ready to be vaccinated," he added.
The Estonian Education Personnel Union (EHL) has called for teachers to be added to the list of frontline priority vaccinations for some time and now claims the state is stalling on vaccinating teachers.
"A week ago, a decision was made that the vaccines will arrive on Sunday - why wait for these weekdays is incomprehensible. The creation of lists took place in local municipality governments weeks ago. It is trully strange that they have not gotten to vaccinations yet," said Reemo Voltri, head of the EHL.
According to Voltri, many local municipalities already have complete lists drawn up. "They asked us in Tartu some weeks ago and I know about Viimsi municipality and others, where the creation of lists took place weeks ago. I do not know where these lists could have disappeared off to," Voltri wondered.
Ministry of Social Affairs undersecretary Maris Jesse however said that the earlier lists are of no use. "There could have been single vaccination lists in places some weeks ago. But the indication of use for AstraZeneca was not yet known two weeks ago. So people could not have given knowledgeable agreements on wanting to get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine," Jesse explained.
She also does not see anything wrong with vaccines waiting for use in storage. "I understand that the question is why vaccinations have not already started. Too much hurrying comes with blowback when it comes to vaccinations," Jesse said.
Along with lists, the education ministry has also received a myriad of questions from schools they themselves do not have answers for. "There are different questions, starting from what the queues will be like, where the vaccination centers are, what are the regulations and how should they act between injections," Lippin said.
The lack of knowledge could be the reason why teachers have stayed relatively modest on vaccinations - they would have liked to be informed before deciding on it.
Jesse said the approach varies from region to region, which is why conclusive answers cannot be given. What is certain however is before the next school break, starting on February 22, all teachers will not be vaccinated.
"There are less vaccines in Estonia currently than there are educational workers. The AstraZeneca vaccine as well. The AstraZeneca vaccine will not only go to educational employees, but family physicians will begin vaccinating people in risk groups aged 70 and under and parts of it will go to other frontline workers," Jesse noted.
The shipment schedule for the AstraZeneca vaccine is set until the end of February. When and in what capacities the vaccine will arrive in Estonia in March, is still open.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste