Health minister: Estonia will not rush to change AstraZeneca age limit

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

Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) said that Estonia is not looking to change the 60+ age recommendation regarding the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. The minister also noted that the vaccine could still be offered to younger people in the future.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced on Wednesday that while there is a slight risk of side effects for the AstraZeneca vaccine, "the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects".

There have been a handful of death cases for the 34 million doses administered worldwide and some 240 unusual blood clots and they should be handled as a very rare side effect of the vaccine, the EMA added.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said: "Truly, the language of numbers does not lie and these risks are not great. There is a much greater risk to get infected with COVID-19, end up in hospital, and for the elderly, even die. You should still certainly get vaccinated."

At the same time, there is a restriction on the use of AstraZeneca in Estonia - as the risk of blood clots is more common among people aged under 60, the Estonian immunoprophylaxis expert committee has recommended the vaccine be used exclusively in the 60+ age group.

Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Thursday that there is no rush to change the restriction as the priority is still getting older people vaccinated.

"We know that there are still 200,000 unvaccinated people in the 60+ age group. We know that these are the people with the highest risk of serious health issues, looking at hospitalization. 75 percent of hospitalized patients are in the 60+ age group so [the recommendation] supports our current goal of focusing on vaccinating the elderly," Kiik said.

For people in between doses, the immunoprophylaxis committee's recommendation is to still continue with the second vaccine injection. The health minister has also received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and is looking to get a second dose sometime in June.

University of Tartu rector and neurosurgeon Toomas Asser emphasized the necessity of the second dose. "For those who have already gotten one and have had no special side effects or medical contraindications, there is no reason to fear it. These people should certainly come for a second jab," Asser said.

The university rector added that AstraZeneca complications are very rare but serious enough to not ignore. He thinks the vaccine could still be administered to younger people if they agree to it beforehand and acknowledge the risks.

Kiik supports the idea: "It is one option that has also been discussed by Estonian healthcare experts. This is a place for the people assessing the safety of the medicine to offer up a concrete notification option, a form or variant that the person could consult with and make a reasonable choice."

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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