Health minister: Non-traditional measures considered to boost vaccinations

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

As larger shipments of coronavirus vaccines are scheduled to arrive in the near future, Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) said non-traditional measures should be used to cover as many people as possible, such as a 1+1 system, where the person taking their older relative to get vaccinated will also be administered a dose.

Kiik told ERR that there are already discussions about the options on how to get more people vaccinated. One example is a 1+1 system, where the person taking their elderly relative to get vaccinated can also get administered a dose.

Whether elderly relatives are 60+ or 65+ still needs to be decided before implementing such a system. "We have mapped the experiences of other countries and their activities on raising vaccine coverage. Scandinavian countries for example have achieved great coverage among risk groups. We must look at the solutions in Israel, Great Britain and Scandinavia," Kiik said.

The minister added that detailed discussions are held with the private sector, healthcare institutions and local municipality governments but no decisions have been made yet.

New mass vaccination drive will use different measures

Kiik said the most important role is still played by vaccine shipments that affect the entire planning process. He added that no concrete decisions can be made until exact shipment capacities are announced, which means that the next mass vaccination drive is still not yet planned.

"We must actually have the vaccine before we invite people to get inoculated. The disappointment and resentment of an unexpected cancellation are far greater," Kiik said.

At the same time, 50,000 vaccine doses are set to arrive on the last week of April, but Kiik added that the original shipment plan also stated that 11,000 AstraZeneca vaccines would arrive this week. Unfortunately, that shipment was canceled.

Kiik said a new solution is already in place for large shipments, but the specific producers must also be considered. Recommendations from the state immunoprophylaxis committee are also considered, the minister added.

"It would be even better if the recommendations came from the EU level. We see a very big difference among European countries when it comes to using the AstraZeneca vaccine," Kiik said.

Younger vaccine applicants are not mapped yet

With the first mass vaccination drive taking place over the weekend, it became apparent that younger people are also interested in getting vaccinated. Kiik said the current focus has been on real-time digital registering and vaccine interest is not mapped.

"But if we see that there is large demand for such a database, we must go over the technical and legal side. It is undoubtedly important info for the state but we cannot generate a situation where 20-30-year-olds can register before the elderly, who are in more danger," the health minister said.

He noted that younger people are more literate digitally and vaccine distribution cannot be organized based on speed, but rather a concrete hierarchy and logic.

Weekend vaccination issues stem from communication and logistics

Kiik said that it cannot be stated that people did not get inoculated during the mass vaccination drive in Tallinn over the weekend because they did not want the vaccines. "The question is in informing, logistics and that people are used to receiving healthcare services close to home," the minister said.

He noted that there have not been any issues in smaller cities, which is why smaller vaccination centers are considered a solution in Tallinn, allowing people to get vaccinated closer to home.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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