AK: In-company coronavirus vaccine drive attracting younger staff interest

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A Telia staff member getting a coronavirus vaccine on Thursday. Source: ERR

Younger employees at some private sector firms have said that they are keen to get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, particularly now the authorities are liaising with companies do set up vaccines for over 50s, many of whom in practice have already obtained their inoculations through doctors, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Thursday night.

As frontline employees, technical staff at telecoms firm Telia received coronavirus vaccinations, while the government's priority was to work through lists of such workers, would would have also included teachers, this approach has now been abandoned.

However, AK reported, those employees over 50, or who turn 50 this year, can get vaccinated at the workplace, and the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) has contacted dozens of companies via professional associations, in order to get the process of in-workplace vaccinations going – which has already started at Telia.

This would entail the use of the private sector in administering the vaccinations.

The ideal figure for in-company vaccine drives is 50, the health insurance fund says, though AK reported a dozen volunteers at Telia's vaccine session.

The employees received the Janssen vaccine, meaning they are already covered since the product only requires one shot, compared with the two required by the other three vaccine suppliers whose products are available in Estonia: AstraZenaca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Telia's human resources manager Ingrid Viinapuu told AK that many staff in the 50+ age group had in fact already received the vaccine through family doctors.

"However, it is a pity that the employees who serve customers in our stores did not get this opportunity," she said – as noted the company's tech workers received the opportunity for the vaccination as key frontline workers.

In any case, from May 17 younger people, which would include Telia's customer-facing staff, will be able to receive vaccinations, AK reported.

Lea Kimberg, human resources manager at Lithuanian supermarket chain Maxima store chain, said applications for vaccines started at the company almost as soon as supplies started reaching Estonia at the end of last year.

Kimberg told AK that interest was particularly high among younger people.

"Yes, there are very few people who want 50+, but in fact the younger age group is the one looking out more for the vaccine."

This was not only due to older people having already covered however, but also due to the dose Maxima used, Kimberg claimed,

"The reason was partly that the vaccine we offer is Johnson & Johnson (Janssen is a Johnson&Johnson subsidiary – ed.). This one-shot dose has led to skepticism among the elderly," Kimberg told AK.

Meanwhile back among the youngsters at Telia, one employee, Katrin, who got her shot on Thursday, said all the younger staff were looking forward to get the injection, if anything to make their work processes easier.

"We maintain distance, we have plexiglass installed on the counters, but let's be honest, customers still come closer, they often can't hear us well, - older people want to read your mouth movements. So this is not a joke," Katrin said.

Maxima store worker Vladislava said the same was the case at her workplace.

"Really, I had been waiting a long time. I waited for several months. There is a very clear reason for this: We still work in an area where we have a lot of contacts. And as a service manager, I meet a lot of customers and also our staff," she said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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