Tallinn mass vaccinations highlight planning, communication bottlenecks

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Coronavirus vaccinations taking place at Sõle Sports Center on April 3, 2021. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Bottlenecks with planning and communication were highlighted this weekend in Tallinn during mass coronavirus vaccinations, health experts have said. In total, 17,000 people were vaccinated across the country.

Problems experienced over the Easter weekend included a lower than expected turnout of people over 60 and queues of younger people hoping to get vaccinated ahead of schedule after rumors spread on social media.

Additionally, medical service providers lowed the age group for vaccinations to anyone over the age of 50 on Friday night, without consulting the government, going against Estonia's vaccination plan. This allowed people over the age of 50, not in risk groups, to sign up to be vaccinated.

On Sunday, the municipal police checked people's ages at Sõle Sports Center and whether or not they had pre-registered, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Sunday evening, summing up the weekend's activites.

Kadi Lambot, the head of the Confido medical center which carried out the vaccinations, said hundreds of younger people contacted the call center asking for the creation of a queuing system because it is hard to understand the vaccination process

"People's have said: "I would be happy to put myself on the waiting list somewhere, please communicate when our time is so that we do not have to be constantly watching, being ignorant and confused". I think this is a very good suggestion," Lambot told AK.

Lambot said the distribution of vaccines is difficult, but many things could have been done better. 

"As an IT nation, we should have an accurate picture of how much [vaccine] there is. For example, even if we have 700 or 800 vaccines left here today. Every day is important, every hour is important, so that as few people as possible get sick. [That we know] how to react quickly, where to give these vaccines, so that the next people can be informed," she said.

Chairman of the Board of the Health Insurance Fund Rain Laane said approximately 2,200 doses were not used in Tallinn over the weekend. These will now be given to family doctors who can administer them to their patients.

He said communication needs to improve and the timing of information campaigns. Giving people over 60 only three days to register is too little time. "Communication is a little slower for them. They may not watch the internet or social media as often," he said, adding registration by telephone has worked well.

Laane said younger age groups should not be allowed to register or move up the queue because they are not the most at risk and older people are still more likely to end up in hospital.

Head of the West Tallinn Central Hospital Arkadi Popov said the most important aspect of mass vaccinations is planning. During this process, it should be determined how people from the target groups are actually interested in vaccination.

"Here, it is understandable that the organizers want to expand and test this system a bit to understand how much interest and urgency there is in vaccinating people," Popov said.

He said clear communication is also important.

Popov did not rule out the possibility that older people may prefer to be vaccinated by their family doctors so they can discuss the suitability of the vaccine in person.

"When we talk about the mass vaccination process and the mass vaccination centers, things are planned by the minute and it is assumed a person will be vaccinated within three to four minutes and there is no time for a detailed consultation," Popov said.

In total, 17,000 people were vaccinated over the weekend (April 2-4).

For the first time, two vaccination centers were opened in Tallinn which saw 5,144 people vaccinated between Friday and Sunday although a total of 7,100 doses were available.

At Sõle Sports Center, Confido Medical Center vaccinated 3,410 people over the three days, 1,350 of them on Friday, 1,500 on Saturday and 560 today.

At Tondiraba Ice Rink, Medicum vaccinated 1,330 Saturday and 374 on Sunday.

ERR reported on Sunday that there had been a higher level of interest reported across the country than in the capital.

A mass vaccination was organized for the weekend after more than 40,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered last week.

In total, 41,000 doses were administered last week across Estonia.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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