Bureau responsible for frontline vaccination lists is classified

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Stenbock House, seat of the Estonian government. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Government Office's national security and defense management coordination bureau is responsible for drawing up lists of frontline workers to be vaccinated. However, the bureau's composition, size and background is classified.

The Ministry of Social Affairs began handling the list of priority frontline workers' vaccination in December but the task was later moved to the Government Office. Who and how are the decisions regarding vaccinations made and what is the background of the people making these decisions then?

As it turns out, this seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer.

Liana Roosmaa, the adviser in charge of the national security and defense management coordination bureau, said that the bureau as such does not actually exist and that decisions are made based on priorities established by the state in general, stemming from the Emergency Act, which lists essential services. The bureau mainly deals with decisions on vaccine capacities and distribution, but does so in coordination with respective ministries, whose jurisdiction the decisions fall under.

"If we are presented a thousand names, if the ministry deems it necessary, water companies for example, and it has been discussed with the applicants, then we can look at what could be done along with the social ministry and the Health Insurance Fund. The knowledge comes from the ministries," Roosmaa said.

The exact number and names of people in the bureau however is classified. Roosmaa only says that the bureau's background is mostly from national defense. "I cannot name the number. These are Government Office security bureau officials. These names are not public. It is as if we do not exist, I cannot name names. We call ourselves crisis regulation contacts for ministries," Roosmaa said, pointing out that the bureau also cannot be found on the Government Office's webpage.

She noted that the bureau is in charge of critical everyday activities and not medical decisions. "We do not handle the decisions of who is getting a vaccine, but we are instead looking at sectoral priorities - who and in which queue can be administered a vaccine. The medical side is not what we are dealing with, we are not involved there," Roosmaa said.

"Decisions on which vaccines to use, the period between two injections, is for healthcare providers and experts to make," she added.

Communication issues with the Riigikogu

Yet, there was a decision made in the Government Office to inoculate members of the Riigikogu with the AstraZeneca vaccine even though the national immunoprophylaxis committee, consisting of doctors and researchers, recommended in March to not administer AstraZeneca to people under the age of 60. Was that not a medical decision?

"Vaccinating the Riigikogu was a communication mishap. The decision was not that the frontline would be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, but AstraZeneca," Roosmaa said.

"The immunoprophylaxis committee's recommendation is to vaccinate the 60+ age group with AstraZeneca. At the same time, the decision has not been change to ban the vaccine for those aged under 60 (this interview was conducted hours before the state suspended the use of AstraZeneca for people under the age of 60 completely - ed). It is not exactly as if the Government Office intervened in the committee's recommendations. We have always emphasized speaking to your family physician and if there is a contraindication, the vaccine would not be administered."

She noted that the bureau's task is setting priorities among groups of people working on essential services and if the immunoprophylaxis committee's recommendations were to change, the lists would be redone.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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