Minister: State appealed to Germany, EU to speed up COVID-19 vaccine supply

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Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Siim Lõvi / ERR

Health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) has appealed both to Germany and the European commissioner for health to speed up supplies of coronavirus vaccines to Estonia, daily Postimees reports.

Kiik noted that just 6 percent of the Estonian population has been vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, far from sufficient to curb the viral spread.

Kiik's request would require broader political agreement, Germany's health minister, Jens Spahn, said.

Kiik responded that: "This is understandable, since there is a deficit of vaccines in all of Europe."

"We've actually sent similar requests to the European Commissioner for health (Stella Kyriakidou  – ed.) regarding the production capacity at the new Pfizer-BioNTech plant, and directing vaccines to Estonia at a faster pace than scheduled."

Stocks from U.K.-Swedish manufacturer AstraZeneca, which has hit criticism from the EU over its safety, are nonetheless being mapped out by the commission, Postimees wrote.

Larger consignments of both manufacturers' products are expected in Estonia in the coming months, Kiik said, though those from the third supplier Estonia has procured from so far – U.S. firm Moderna – will not see a similar increase until the third quarter of 2021, Kiik added.

Kiik: People's expectations about vaccines too high

Kiik also said that misguided expectations are one of the reasons Estonia is struggling with the virus, along with fatigue with the pandemic a year after it began. Kiik also hinted that the alleviation of some restrictions had happened too soon.

"We indeed relaxed some measures both in education as well as more broadly to try and keep the society open in the crisis," Kiik said.

"There is definitely a misguided expectation that with the vaccination process underway, everything will turn out fine very soon. In reality, it is known that the effect of vaccinations on an infection rate only emerges if the majority, or at least a large share of our population, have been immunized," Kiik went on.

AstraZeneca mapped stocks within the EU may prove a source of doses which could be sold to Estonia, BNS reports.

In general, the situation in Estonia is replicated across much of the union, Kiik said.

"At present, the concern is that no state or vaccine producer is saying 'the vaccines are here, so help yourself'. The situation is in fact the reverse - all producers that have been granted authorization are struggling to stick to their supply schedules," Kiik said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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