Coronavirus vaccines may be available to all who want from May or even earlier, authorities say, pending adequate supplies, at a time when Estonia has one of the highest coronavirus rates in Europe. At the same time, forecasting vaccination rates on a daily basis is difficult, authorities say, and supplies from the three manufacturers so far used can be subject to delays.
Vaccine manufacturers have said that sufficient doses for around half a million people in Estonia may be available by June (Estonia's population is around 1.3 million – ed.).
While this means 100 percent coverage would not be possible, if around two-thirds of the populace has been inoculated, this could be enough to slow down the rate of spread compared with its current level, Health Board (Terviseamet) chief Üllar Lanno told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Monday.
Health Board chief: Up to 70 percent could be inoculated by mid-summer
"Assuming 65-70 percent of society vaccinated population will ensure that the infection is not transmitted from person-to-person at the rate it is today, at present this could be fulfilled around June-July," Lanno said (i.e. the vaccinations for the wider populace would be rolled out in May and the majority of people covered a month or two later – ed.).
At 763.07 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days as of Monday, Estonia has not only the highest rate of the three Baltic States, but also one of the highest coronavirus rates in Europe at present, according to both the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and the World Health Organization.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) gave a speech before the Riigikogu Monday appealing for public responsibility in adhering to regulations instead of needing to implement stricter regulations on the very day that a new raft of restrictions entered into force. At the same time, the government is set to discuss restrictions again Tuesday, going into Wednesday's national holiday and during schools' half-term break.
Health minister: Vaccines available to general EU adult populace by year-end, or as early as spring in Estonia
Health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) said that the entire EU adult population could be able to obtain a vaccine as they wished by year-end, a target which he, too, said could be achieved in Estonia as early as spring, given the country has a preliminary agreement for obtaining up to four million doses.
Kiik told AK that: "As per the current schedule, our goal is to focus on vaccinating the elderly and front-line workers in March-April, then from May, we will be able to offer free, close-to-home vaccination to anyone else interested.".
As to current procurement rates, a total of 135,510 doses of vaccine have arrived in Estonia to date, since the first stocks arrived at Christmas time.
Currently, doses going out for vaccination around as quickly as stocks replenished
Üllar Lanno said Monday that just over 14,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses were received that very day, replacing a similar volume of doses from Pfizer and also AstraZeneca, which had left warehouses for administering to recipients.
Another 6,000 doses from the third provider Estonia has procured from, Moderna, are allowed to be delivered this week, though expected AstraZeneca stocks have been reduced from 25,000 this week, to 16,000, with the balance now due the end of the month.
4,000 doses remained from last Friday's delivery, just 58 of which were from Pfizer, AK reported.
In terms of numbers, while around 20,000 people were vaccinated last week, a figure of 30,000 is aimed for this week even with the national holiday and school holidays.
While the social affairs ministry, Tanel Kiik's employer, does not forecast daily vaccine rates, a figure of around 26,000 for this week is realistic, AK reported. Part of the issue revolves around the fact that vaccination rates have usually been dormant at weekends, so far.
Ministry: Easier to monitor vaccine numbers on daily rather than weekly basis
Heli Paluste, the social affairs ministry's healthcare network manager, told AK that: "It is realistic to monitor the number of vaccinations administered on a weekly basis rather than individual days."
"As the quantities of vaccines arriving in Estonia are still limited, what day of the week doses are administered is not of such importance; what is important is to ensure all doses are administered," she added, noting the logistical challenges involved in those administering vaccines – primarily family doctors – in ordering doses, accounting for them, setting up appointments for recipients etc.
Paluste added that much also depends on recipients, reiterating the 26,000 doses figure for this week, including both first and second (of two) doses, and adding that what the figure for next week is will be known early next week.
The ministry also said it could not put a figure on how many doses will be administered on Tuesday – a half day – or Wednesday, independence day and a national holiday.
To date, weekends have generally seen few to zero vaccinations, though the prime minister said Monday that this may be set to change soon.
Estonia vaccination rate slightly higher than Finland's and close to three times that of Latvia
According to data compiled by the Our World in Data site, Estonia as of February 20 had vaccinated 6.57 people per 100, compared with 6.91 in Lithuania, 6.3 in Finland and 2.35 in Latvia. Malta's rate was the highest from among the EU27 at 14.06 per 100 people, Bulgaria's the lowest at 1.56.
An online vaccine registry is to be launched next month.
Editor: Andrew Whyte