Teenagers face long wait to get vaccinated

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Teenagers vaccinating in Sõle Center. Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

Although the state is making efforts to vaccinate people, parents of teenagers are faced with a 10 day wait. Planning is also complicated by a rigid system that requires the second injection to be given at the same place as the first one.

Currently, children can only recieve the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine. However, as families want to go on holiday in the summer, and many neighboring countries require vaccination or a negative coronavirus test in order to avoid quarantine, it is the easiest to get vaccinated. But, vaccination is not always as fast and worry-free as you might expect.

Estonia announced the decision to start vaccinating teenagers two weeks ago, on June 14, and a digital registry was opened for 12-15-year-olds to book times on June 17. However, the fastest managed to get a vaccination time 10 days later, at least in Tallinn. Thus, not many teenagers have been vaccinated so far.

As of Monday, 1,918 teenagers, or four percent of the entire 12-15-year-old age group, have been vaccinated across Estonia.

More than half of those vaccinated live in Tallinn and Harju County, where 1,022 teenagers (3.87 percent) had been vaccinated by the beginning of the week. However, most teenagers have been vaccinated in Tartu County - 9.41 percent.

Tartu County is followed by Harju County, then Põlva and Valga counties by 2.1 percent. However, there are no young people aged 12-15 vaccinated in Hiiu County.

An error between two registries

When trying to set a vaccination time for a teenager on Monday, the Patient Portal offers the first free time in Harju County on July 6, while the number of patients in vaccination centers is sparse.

At the same time, Gea Otsa, the head of communication of the vaccination working group, confirms that 6,000 free days are available all over Estonia.

"You can see if there is previous free time in another county, but then you have to go there for the second dose," Otsa suggested.

A little later, it turns out that the ERR request has revealed an error in the digital registry - an error has occurred between the Fertilitas registry, which organizes vaccination at Sõle Sports Center, and the national digital registry, which does not show earlier times. However, it is said that Fertilitas' own website can already be used to book earlier vaccinations.

"The principle of the digital registry needs to be explained a bit here: it is not a separate registry, but a system that makes inquiries into the registries of medical institutions," Otsa explained.

You cannot change the second time yourself

Flexibility is important for people during the summer. The time between the two doses of vaccine should be six weeks. This means that when a teenager receives the first dose of vaccine, for example in early July, the time for a new dose is mid-August. The school holiday is still lasting then so the child might not be in the same city.

However, the system is rigid - the first and second doses must be administered in the same place. Even if it is known in advance that the patient will be in another city in six weeks, it will not be useful. Then you should take the first dose in another city if you want to get the second one elsewhere.

One solution could be to set up pop-up centers, as is currently being tested at Lasnamäe Centrum and Narva Fama Center. However, they use a single-dose Janssen vaccine which can only be used for over 16s. The Pfizer vaccine can be given to everyone, but it also requires a second dose of the vaccine. Therefore, its use in pop-up centers is not considered appropriate.

"We will decide after this week without pre-registration, ie the opening of so-called pop-up centers in other cities. Let's see how things are going in Lasnamäe and Narva - what is the interest of people, what problems need to be solved," Otsa said.

Although the first vaccination time can be chosen from the Patient Portal at a suitable place and time, after the first injection has been given and the time of the next injection has been set at the vaccination point, it cannot be changed later if necessary.

The Patient Portal may or may not show a second vaccination time at all. What is certain, however, is that although the system displays the "View / Edit" button, you cannot actually change the time yourself. Once the second time has been accepted for vaccination, it is as good as carved in stone, and if you want to change it, you will have to go through a complex and nerve-wracking journey as many user experiences have shown.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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