'AK. Nädal' studied non-risk group vaccination in Estonia

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Vaccination Source: ERR

The record number of vaccine doses that arrived in Estonia last week was meant to be used for risk groups. However, many people outside of these groups have also been vaccinated. ETV's weekly news program "AK. Nädal" took a deeper look on Sunday.

"AK. Nädal" spoke to Urmas Veide who lives near Haapsalu and is turning 73 this summer. According to the government's vaccination plan, he belongs to a priority risk group and should receive the vaccine as soon as possible.

"I contacted a nurse at the family doctor center and I was told that they will call me and that I don't need to go anywhere today," Veide told AK.

He is relaxed about waiting for the vaccine although he admits that he would like to be vaccinated as, due to the risk of the virus, he has no been able to see his daughter regularly. "We practically haven't visited each other in a year, only communicated through the phone," he said.

Thanks to the large vaccine amount arriving in Estonia, Veide was able to register for vaccination this weekend.

Paide's family doctor Ilme Last said that Järva County's low infection rate means the area has not been given many doses.

"We have received very few vaccines. But because we still have a lot of people, people at risk, people have become dissatisfied and our own work has been severely disrupted," she said.

Last has 776 patients on her list belonging to a risk group but has only received 226 vaccine doses. She said every day, 10-15 people ask her when their turn will come.

"With every day, people are becoming more and more dissatisfied and they no longer believe what I'm saying, they think I'm putting the vaccine aside because Estonia is small and everybody knows what is happening elsewhere," she said.

Non-risk groups are also vaccinated

Distrust is arising because, on one hand, it is reported that there are not enough vaccines for risk groups and frontline employees. But, on the other, it is not uncommon to hear on social media and in the news about young people who have already been vaccinated despite not being in a risk group.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said last week he does not think he should be vaccinated before bus drivers or Municipal Police officers. But at the same time, news that a famous TV host was invited to be vaccinated after a risk group person did not show up was also reported.

Talking to people and scrolling through social media, this all seems normal, AK said.

AK looked at one post which showed that a person not old enough to belong to a risk group had written that in Tallinn's Õismäe district a family doctor's center has AstraZeneca doses and you can get the vaccine in two days time.

Center manager Diana Ingerainen said vaccinating people outside of risk groups has occurred but it happens when a risk group patient does not show up but the vaccine is already prepared.

"This means that the vaccine has to be used within a couple of hours or else it will be unusable. And then we have a list of people who have registered as people wanting to be vaccinated and they can come in 15 minutes or five minutes," Ingerainen said.

She said that calling someone on the list is not guaranteed because there may well be other risk group patients to contact first.

"Once the first risk group has been called, we call the next and the next. When people give up their vaccine we can offer it to others, which I think is the number one priority right now - vaccinate as much as possible," she said.

Ingerainen said that unfortunately, it is not possible to vaccinate everyone in a risk group. For example, in the 80+ risk group, there are a total of 438 patients, all of whom have been called and 156 of them refused. She said that a tenth of the doses have been given to people on the volunteer list.

Such lists have been created by almost all family doctors, Le Vallikivi, chairwoman of the board of the Estonian Society of Family Doctors, said.

"You know, we've talked a lot about this with the family doctors, and we haven't been able to find one doctor who said yes, I don't care about my risk groups at all, I will call the people on the waiting list," Vallikivi said.

Vallikivi said family doctors do no think younger people should be vaccinated before risk groups. However, she points out that younger people may also be members of risk groups.

No deviations from the vaccination plan

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said vaccination of non-risk groups should not be taking place at the moment.

"Undoubtedly, in the conditions of a deficit, all such deviations raise questions and rightly so. Certainly, young healthy people should not be given the opportunity to be vaccinated out of line," the minister said.

At the same time, Kiik added that if there is a problem, it is not huge - more than 200,000 people have received the vaccine, a quarter of whom are less than fifty years old, and a large part of them are frontline employees.

"All these reserve lists, additional doses should be 50+ people, people with chronic diseases, the elderly, that is definitely the case, there are probably exceptions here and certainly every health institution must be able to convincingly justify why one or the other has been given the opportunity to be vaccinated when we know there are a lot of old people waiting," he said.

If there are any deviations from the vaccination plan, it should be investigated by the Health Board (Terviseamet), which said that there are no ongoing proceedings.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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