Radio hosts: We should use all avenues for procuring vaccines

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Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Journalists Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam talked about COVID-19 vaccination in their Vikerraadio talk show "Samost ja Sildam." Samost said that Estonia should be more active in trying to secure vaccines and use every available option. Hosts of Raadio 2 program "Olukorrast riigis" agreed.

'Samost ja Sildam'

Anvar Samost said that procuring vaccines is the cheapest way to combat the pandemic.

He pointed to news from Germany where close to a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are just sitting in a warehouse. The journalist suggested it would be good if Estonia could buy the quantity. Even though many are against such an approach, it is worth attempting, he said.

"These are extraordinary circumstances where proposed solutions should also be extraordinary," Samost said.

This prompted a question from Sildam of whether every EU member state should seek extraordinary solutions or whether they should be found on the EU level.

Samost referred to the question ad demagogy and said that major European countries such as France and Germany have been procuring vaccines separately all along. There would be nothing wrong with Estonia attempting to secure vaccine quantities either inside the EU or directly from pharmaceutical companies, Samost concluded.

"Rather, we should be asking the government why such efforts have not been made because the number of people vaccinated, those immune to the virus is another important crisis management metric next to the number of people who have been hospitalized," the host added.

He remarked that while some progress has been made recently in terms of vaccination, Estonia has not managed to use all doses without hiccups.

"We should be doing everything we can to secure additional vaccines. Sums spent on vaccines are nothing compared to the cost of restrictions such as closing malls or even museums," Samost said.

Sildam asked whether immunization efforts are at capacity in Estonia. Samost believes that is not the case. "We are vaccinating people and keeping half of doses in reserve [for the second immunization shot]."

While Sildam offered that the approach makes sense, Samost pointed out that some European countries have given it up and that Estonia should follow suit. "We are racing against time, against the virus. I believe we should administer all the doses we have and take the risk of giving people a certain level of protection should new doses be held up. Studies from several countries suggest that the first dose provides a sufficient level of protection," Samost explained.

He added that he is convinced vaccine deliveries will become more reliable moving forward.

Sildam said he believes that everyone in charge of vaccination in Estonia are doing the best they can. "I refuse to adopt this position in advance that people are not doing all they can or are doing something wrong," he said.

Samost also suggested that Estonia could add vaccines that have been approved for use in the EU to the list of prescription or over-the-counter drugs that pharmacies are allowed to sell, similarly to the flu vaccine. "To create demand based on private initiative that would see Estonian wholesalers go after vaccine contracts. This would give Estonia at least some additional vaccine quantities. Pharmacies could administer SARS-CoV-2 vaccines just as they do flu vaccine shots today," he said.

Samost emphasized that every vaccinated person helps slow the spread of the virus.

'Olukorrast riigis'

Hindrek Riikoja and Indrek Lepik said as much on Sunday, finding that the state cannot shut down the economy without first doing everything in its power to procure vaccines.

"It makes no sense for us to hold back the economy unless we are working hard to vaccinate people. It is clear that people will become less diligent about compliance with rules after spending a year in a situation where they do not know how long their sacrifice will last," Lepik said.

He added that it is very difficult to expect people to make a final push and sacrifice looking at the current pace of vaccination.

Riikoja added that looking at the current pace of vaccination, Estonia's goal of immunizing 70 percent of the population will take 18-24 months instead of being finished by the year's end.

The host moved on to criticize Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform Party) uncertain crisis rhetoric. "It was impossible to make sense of Kallas' messages druing the press conference where new restrictions were announced. That said, I believe this characterizes her performance in general and looking at the government's conduct today, I have little faith in that the cabinet will do everything in its power to lower the case rate and boost vaccination," Riikoja said.

He added that Estonia should seek all avenues of procuring more vaccine and that he was baffled when the PM said Estonia shouldn't even try. "The quantities Estonia needs are so small that they can be found much more easily. We are not as puny as all that and the state should definitely attempt it," Riikoja said.

Lepik interjected and said that agreements should be sought behind the scenes and the people notified once a victory has been secured. He also said that such direct agremeents should have been sought when the crisis began as quantities have been reserved now.

Riikoja said that direct offers could probably bring Estonia certain quantities of vaccine.

"We need to move fast and in a decisive manner, make a clear offer," he added.

Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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