Shortage of vaccine doses in Tallinn causing inter-county vaccine tourism

Tartu vaccination center.
Tartu vaccination center. Source: Tartu University Hospital.

Over the past few weeks, a new type of tourism has developed in Estonia as people travel across the country to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday that due to the limited number of doses on offer in Harju County and Tallinn, people have been booking vaccination times in other areas of Estonia.

AK spoke to a family who lives in Saku, Harju County but received their vaccinations in Tartu.  

Mother Kristi Leppik said: "We chose the place according to what was still available. There were no more times in Tallinn, there was Kuressaare Hospital, Narva Hospital, there was time at Tartu, also at Valga, and there was a time in Maardu that was completely inappropriate."

The family combined their vaccination trip with a birthday trip to Tartu. Estonia's second-biggest city was the prefered choice as the one-dose Janssen vaccine was on offer.

"We chose Janssen precisely because it is a single injection. Then in 15 days we will have the [digial coronavirus] passport and life will be beautiful," Leppik said.

Asked if the 400km round-trip was worth it, father Janno Hallik said: "Certainly. Since we have plans to travel next month anyway, this 400 kilometers is not [a problem]. Let's say that no distance in Estonia is too far."

At the start of the vaccination rollout, it was mostly south Estonians traveling to Tartu but now people come from further afield.

Tiina Teder, coordinator of the Tartu Vaccination Center, told AK that about 5 percent of people are from Harju County, 1 percent from Ida-Viru County and fewer from Pärnu County.

"We noticed that they came to get Janssen, it stood out," she said.

AK presenter Hanneli Rudi said vaccination tourism has become common among Tallinners and she knows people who have traveled to Rakvere, Pärnu, Põltsamaa, Haapsalu, Kuressaare and Põlva to get vaccinated. While some people have family living in these areas, not all do.

Marek Seer, head of the vaccination working group, said vaccine tourism was expected as there are still fewer doses available than those who want them. He said he the demand has been a little surprising as the hospitals in Rakvere and Ida-Virumaa have talked about an invasion of Tallinners. 

However, he considers the current distribution of vaccines to be justified. In the coming weeks, 60 percent of doses will be distributed in the capital.

"By now, 40 percent has been vaccinated with one dose, I personally think that the momentum will subside when 50 percent is reached," Seer said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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