The Estonian Dispensing Pharmacists' Association (EPAL) proposed Monday that its members start vaccinating against the COVID-19 at any of 50 outlets which have the necessary facilities.
Tens of thousands of people have been vaccinated against, for instance, tick-borne encephalitis and influenza at the EPAL member pharmacies, which also see use for different shots ahead of trips to the U.K., Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Malta, France, EPAL's manager, Ly Rootslane, noted, adding sister pharmacies in Lithuania are at the same stage.
In the 50 pharmacies located across nine Estonian cities - Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Narva, Jõhvi, Kuressaare, Võru, Rakvere and Haapsalu - the requisite facilities, including rooms as well as digital registration options, for vaccination can be found and are ready to use, ERR reports.
While currently, vaccination against COVID-19 when it takes place, does soat family doctors' surgeries, hospitals and regional vaccination centers these pharmacies could be added to that list, the EPAL says.
"Our pharmacies have the infrastructure and the web-based registration system and these are open also on the weekends and evenings, which makes the vaccination a whole lot more flexible for people," Ly Rootslane said.
Estonia's rate and the fact coronavirus doses could potentially go to waste, along with the rate of vaccination so far (if the current rate of vaccination were to continue, assuming a full course of two doses, it would take around eight-and-a-half years to inoculate the entire Estonian populace - ed.) have brought the issue, never far from the headlines, even more front and center, Rootslane noted.
"The national statistics show that on Sunday, February 14, only 61 people got inoculated, although there were doses available for thousands. The family doctor centers' and health institutions' capability to vaccinate on weekends is also modest. 80-year-olds, and older, who are at present called to get the vaccination can usually go there with their families. For them, the weekends or evenings are often most suitable. The current arrangement is not enough in a situation where Estonia is in the top 10 in terms of the infection rate in the EU, however," Rootslane added.
The EPAL has made the same proposal it made Monday, to the government's coronavirus advisory board, to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which is coordinating the vaccination plan in Estonia. The EPAL has also appealed to the prime minister, ERR reports. The majority of pharmacists themselves, as health care employees, have already received their first dose, making the proposed set-up even more amenable, it is argued.
A pharmacist, as a medications expert, can also help with important public information work in alleviating fears related to the safety of the vaccines, the EPAL adds.
Today's projections show that the vaccination programs, and possible new waves of the virus won't end this spring regardless of rates, and consequently the EPAL consideres the next important step being to work out a training program for the pharmacist to enable them to vaccinate people in autumn.
Updating the COVID-19 vaccination plan will be discussed by the government and related institutions in the new week.
The EPAL is the largest union representing dispensing pharmacists - as against wholesalers, who have at least one other lobby group. Membership currently stands at 89 pharmacies, with more than 1,100 employees.
Receiving a coronavirus vaccination is not mandatory. At the same time, cases both of vaccine administrators literally walking into pharmacies to offer injections to staff (once a vial is opened it has to be used within a relatively short space of time - ed.) and of alleged or proven queue-jumping among the sector's hierarchy have been reported since the first vaccines arrived at Christmasstime.
Estonia's vaccine procurement process is centrally planned at EU level.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte