Former Health Board emergency department chief Martin Kadai said the vaccination tempo could be accelerated by continuing to vaccinate as many people as possible with first injections. Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) however does not support the idea.
As of Tuesday, 46,740 Estonians have had their first vaccine injection, up from 36,897 the week before. This means just under 10,000 people received their first vaccine jab in the period of February 9-16. At the same time, there are currently 17,440 vaccine doses in Health Board storage and another 16,800 doses are set to arrive in Estonia this week, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Tuesday.
Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik noted that a total of 15,000 doses were actually administered over the previous week, a record number so far. At the same time, there were issues with the use of the recently arrived AstraZeneca vaccine.
"Last week was trully problematic. Before that, we have done more and more vaccinations, more than have arrived, meaning we have used doses that were stored and the reserve has been decreased to a few thousand," Kiik said.
The minister said the goal is for 15-20 percent of the vaccines in Estonia to be put in storage and a satisfactory week would mean exceeding 20,000 administered doses. Since each individual needs to be injected twice, the reserve is necessary to ensure second doses for people who have already received their first jab.
At the same time, just one jab would already help avoid serious cases and according to former Health Board emergency department head Martin Kadai, the period between two injections could be extended, just as was done in Great Britain. This allows for a larger total of people to be vaccinated.
"We should very seriously consider it, if these conditions remain, going to that solution to offer as many people as possible with defense from the first dose, especially risk groups," Kadai said.
He added that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended countries make this change if infection rates are high, but vaccine availability is limited.
Tanel Kiik said the state follows the recommendations of the vaccine producers - a 21-day period for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, 28 for Moderna and 4-12 weeks for the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Estonia going with eight weeks for the latter.
"Healthcare experts have discussed this. The immunoprophylaxis expert committee, where the state immunization plan is discussed, COVID-19 vaccinations as well, has assessed that it is reasonable to follow the instructions provided by the producers and the European Medicines Agency and to not start making any trial-and-error solutions on our own," the minister explained.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste