Ministry: No COVID-19 vaccine preferential treatment for government members

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Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

No plan is in place to fast-track coronavirus vaccines for government members, MPs, diplomats and other high-ranking officials, the foreign ministry says, adding that the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine will not be adminsitered to the diplomatic corps overseas.

The news comes at a time when President Kersti Kaljulaid, who received a first coronavirus shot on Friday, is traveling to Spain on an official visit Monday.

The government office says no plan has yet been put in place to provide coronavirus vaccinations to ministers, MPs and other leaders, ERR reports, as well as diplomats, though the office said that Estonia's overseas representatives will not be receiving either the Russian Sputnik V or Chinese Coravac injections, neither of which are currently approved by the EU and which have also attracted criticism over their perceived use for political gain.

Meanwhile the president, who has her own office distinct from the government one, is crossing Spain off her yet-to-be-visited list, at least in her current, official role, on Monday, BNS reports.

The president received her first COVID-19 vaccination on Friday, in advance of a planned official visit to Afghanistan next month. The president received an AstraZeneca shot, which currently has as standard the longest recommended gap between first and second doses (12 weeks).

Foreign ministry discourages overseas travel

Currently, the foreign ministry discourages foreign travel except in the most pressing of cases, while entry to both Finland and Latvia can for Estonian citizens and residents can only happen for such reasons anyway.

Estonia has also installed a 10-day quarantine requirement on arrivals from most European countries.

Centennial of Tartu Peace Treaty necessarily followed by 100th anniversaries of establishing diplomatic ties with a host of nations

Spain is the latest in a long line of countries Estonia is marking its centennial of diplomatic relations – moves which followed the January 1920 Treaty of Tartu – and the president is traveling there to meet with King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The recent 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with countries such as Romania and the Netherlands and the U.K., were not accompanied by a head of state visit.

Kristina Ots, media adviser at the foreign ministry, said diplomats would not get preferential treatment, and would receive vaccines according to the national plan, which currently sees front-line healthcare workers, teachers and first responders as priority.

Ministry spokesperson: Diplomats can get vaccine either here or in host state

Ots said: "If necessary, Estonian diplomats staying abroad will be vaccinated in Estonia should they be here in the country at the time their vaccine order arrives," adding that if they were not, a request would be made to the host nation to ensure a vaccine for the diplomat on a reciprocal basis (i.e. that country's representative in Estonia would receive a vaccination).

As to justification of President Kaljulaid's Spain visit, her foreign policy adviser, Lauri Kuusing, said: "Spain is our EU partner and a close ally in NATO, Spanish fighter jets have been stationed at our Ämari base on repeated occasions, in order to guard our airspace," adding that countries which were further away geographically required even more effort to inform on security issues facing Estonia.

"Security is paramount, and we must engage in creating it in every direction around NATO," Kuusing added.

Other topics on the table with President Kaljulaid's meeting include a focus on the coronavirus pandemic, digital and green issues, while the head of state is due to lay a wreath at the grave of Estonia's first ambassador to Spain, Karl Robert Pusta, and face the local media, BNS reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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