Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said mass vaccinations do not suit the elderly, who need a more personal approach and that vaccination communication has been confusing so far and not just in Estonia.
Kallas told Vikerraadio's "Stuudios on peaminister" show that Estonia is third in Europe in vaccination pace, which is a positive. At the same time, the vaccine coverage among the elderly could be much better, the prime minister noted.
While the coverage among the 80+ age group is much higher in Finland than in Estonia, Kallas said the Estonian government agreed that two thirds of the vaccines must go to risk groups and the remaining third to frontline workers.
The prime minister noted that while there were issues with mass vaccinations in Tallinn over the weekend, vaccines got administered outside of the capital city to the risk groups they were distributed to. The elderly would still require a more personal approach and mass vaccinations would be more suitable for younger people.
"The main focus for the elderly has still been family physicians," she said, adding praise to the private sector for their assistance in administering vaccines.
Kallas said mass vaccinations were a good test for times when vaccine shipments pick up. "What else is positive - young people are positively minded toward vaccination, they show up," the prime minister said.
She said the elderly would need a more personal approach and family physicians, having access to all of the patient's treatment history and personal data, would be of much help.
AstraZeneca messages have been confusing worldwide
Kallas said the state must communicate with its people in clear and coherent messages. It is complicated, however, since conflicting messages do not come from Estonia, but rather from the world in general. "Confusing messages about the AstraZeneca vaccine come from different countries," Kallas said.
"The messages are confusing," she noted, adding that if people have received one dose, there is no need to fear the second jab since side effects mostly come out after the first jab. "If you had a fever as a side effect after the first injection, it does not mean you should not get a second one," Kallas said.
More than 20 million people worldwide have been inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and the risk of side effects has been very low. "Risks associated with severe COVID are much greater than risks associated with vaccination," she added.
Kallas said allowing employers of people working with seriously ill patients to require their employees get vaccinated is a double edged sword. "It is an argument, on the one hand, people have the right to decide for themselves. We do not have forced vaccinations, getting vaccinated is voluntary here. On the other hand - people have a right to life. If an un-vaccinated employee sets their life in danger, it outweighs their right to decide," the prime minister said.
"The Estonian state will not force anyone to get vaccinated. Perhaps only the private sector, if they decide they need vaccines in that way. I cannot rule out that a condition for going to work is getting vaccinated," Kallas added.
Kallas: AstraZeneca is a quality vaccine
While she noted that messages around the AstraZeneca and other vaccines have been confusing, the former is still an effective vaccine. "The AstraZeneca vaccine is a quality vaccine that has had its effectiveness proven," Kallas said.
"There is new knowledge each day and the current recommendation is for people aged over 60 to use the AstraZeneca vaccine," she noted, adding that the vaccine is safe and the state wants to inoculate the people in most danger first, in order to keep the healthcare system from getting overburdened.
Kallas said an issue is confusing communication. "Currently, the decision is that we will use the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over the age of 60, but it is a recommendation. The final decision will still be made by the healthcare service provider. This does not mean it is forbidden for people under the age of 60. We are currently vaccinating risk groups to bring hospitals out from under their burden. The main focus is directed toward older people and people in risk groups," the prime minister noted.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste