Foreign Minister: Vaccine supply smoother than 2020's masks procurement

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Marko Mumm / Välisministeerium

Estonia has got a hold of coronavirus vaccines better than it did with face-masks last year, thanks to participating in the European Union's joint procurement, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eva-Maria Liimets said. Commenting on the plan of applying for additional vaccine doses from Johnson & Jonhson, Liimets said this could however go against the agreements made with the European Union.

"The EU joint procurements and agreements have ensured a much better supply of vaccine doses for Estonia that could have been possible on a free market. We have received vaccines regularly and are at the forefront of European vaccination rates. To confirm the current advantages, it is worth recalling the situation in the market for the procurement of personal protective equipment last spring, when despite all efforts, contracts and payments, only shipments that actually arrived in Estonia provided a guarantee," Liimets told ERR.

The foreign minister confirmed that Estonia fully supports the efforts of the European Commission in communication with the vaccine manufacturers, which would help to increase the current production capacities and ensure quicker deliveries for all member states.

She also referred to a recent letter from the ministers of health of the three Baltic States, plus Finland and Denmark, to the European Commission, in which they pointed out that there would be no stock of doses if, in other places, there is a deficit.

However, Estonia doesn't approve of revising the current distribution concept, according to which the country gets 0.3 percent of the vaccine quantities delivered according to our population's share of the total population, Liimets noted: "Changing the current fair and efficient distribution would require long and difficult negotiations," Liimets said.

"It is certainly important to emphasize that Estonia is among the fastest countries in the EU to vaccinate its people. According to the EU distribution plan, we have also reached a good position in terms of the proportion of vaccines compared to the member states," the foreign minister emphasized.

The 'Spring Plan' may go against the EU agreements

Commenting on the so-called "Spring Plan" published on Tuesday, regarding which, a group of activists have been trying to get additional doses of coronavirus vaccine against Estonian health information from Johnson & Johnson, Liimets welcomed the initiative but also pointed out that EU countries have promised not to negotiate directly with manufacturers.

"It is good that our people think along and use their knowledge and contacts to speed up the pace of vaccination in Estonia. The next possible steps depend mainly on Johnson & Johnson's response," Liimets said.

"At the same time, according to the EU Framework Agreement, all member states have agreed to not have direct negotiations with the manufacturers. This has ensured a much better supply of vaccine doses for Estonia that could have been possible on a free market," she emphasized.

Liimets explained that currently 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson are prescribed for Estonia according to the framework agreement of the EU. "There is no agreed timetable for the delivery of the vaccines and there is no good indication of when this might become clear. Unfortunately, this is not very encouraging in the context of this plan either," she said.

"Certainly, organizing mass vaccination with Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires political decisions, public debates and medical ethical assessments that would affect sharing the data securile," foreign minister Liimets said.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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