Family doctors in several counties have received no covid-19 vaccines

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Estonia's first COVID-19 vaccine was given to resident-doctor Jelena Rozinko in Kohtla-Järve in Ida-Viru County on December 27. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Family doctors in Lääne County, Põlva County, Valga County and Lääne-Virumaa County have not yet received any doses of COVID-19 vaccines for their patients.

The rate of coronavirus vaccination is varying greatly across Estonia, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Friday. Of the 785 family doctors in Estonia, 104 have not yet received any vaccines but should get their first doses next week. Reasons for this include logistics, lack of vaccines and being unable to contact patients.

When vaccines were rolled out to people in risk groups over 80, family doctors were asked to administer the vaccine. Currently, a patient must be contacted by their family doctor to get a vaccine. But if the doctor does not have a patient's contact details they cannot be added to the vaccination scheduled.

Külli Friedemann, head of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund primary services department, said this can happen and urged people to contact their family doctors if they think they have been missed.

Karmen Joller, board member of the Estonian Family Doctors' Association (Eesti Perearstide Selts), said family doctors are also experiencing logistics problems.

"There have been several cases where people have been called to come and get vaccinated but the family doctor has been forced to call these people again and say that, unfortunately, the vaccine did not arrive," Joller said.

She added as small doses are being sent out to a lot of places this also creates difficulties as it is easier to send a higher volume of doses to one place.

Additionally, as there is a limited number of vaccines, they are sent where the risk of coronavirus is highest, which means counties with lower rates are less likely to receive doses. This means vaccination coverage varies from region to region.

Friedemann said: "The difference also comes from the fact that we have been able to give vaccines to family doctors at different weeks. And then there are some situations where family doctors have not been able to start the vaccine process themselves, even though they have had the opportunity to get the vaccine." She highlighted Maardu clinic as an example after all the doctors at the center fell ill at once.

In Estonia, there are 370,000 people who have been placed in risk group categories. So far Estonia has vaccinated more than 70,000 people, starting with healthcare workers and the over 80s. Frontline workers are now being vaccinated after the AstraZeneca vaccine was age capped at 70.

Estonia has also experienced supply problems after vaccine manufacturers could not produce the required volume of doses.

"It's not a good situation. We've only been able to give really 36 doses per list, which allows one GP to invite 36 people to get a dose," Friedemann said, adding the process needs to speed up.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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