Minister: I'm still optimistic about reaching 70 percent vaccination target

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Vaccination in Ida-Viru County not progressing. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Politico wrote this week that Estonia is one of five European countries where 70 percent vaccination against the coronavirus will not be achieved by the autumn. Although Marek Seer, the head of the vaccination working group, agrees with the data, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) remains optimistic.

Based on its analysis, Politico stated that Estonia, together with four other Eastern European countries, will not be able to achieve the 70 percent vaccination level by autumn, a goal set by the European Commission.

Politico said that given the current vaccination rate, all member states would reach the target, with the exception of Slovenia (67 percent), Estonia (63 percent), Latvia (47 percent), Romania (35 percent) and Bulgaria (22 percent).

In Estonia, at least 6,274 people should be vaccinated per day in order to reach a 70 percent vaccination level by September 22. While more than 7,000 people a day were vaccinated in Estonia until Midsummer week, by the end of Midsummer week it had dropped to 3,400 people.

Estonia itself has set a deadline of August 31 for 70 percent vaccination. Marek Seer's employment contract lasts until the same date and this is the goal set for him. At the same time, Seer himself has expressed skepticism about the achievement of the goal.

"It is still possible to do it today. The question is whether we can find all the people in a targeted way - whether there are people. This number of doses per week is not difficult for healthcare providers, it is more difficult to find the people," Seer said.

The main complexity lies in the cities of Ida-Viru County, but also in Loksa, Paldiski, Maardu, predominantly Russian-speaking cities. However, Seer has not considered the introduction of additional motivational measures - such as gift cards, food parcels or free concerts, which have been tried in other counties.

Tanel Kiik agrees. He suggests that bonuses could be provided by employers to encourage people to get vaccinated, for example, additional paid holiday. In addition, a person should be motivated by the fact that he or she does not have to remain self-isolated when coming from a foreign country with a higher infection rate and can participate in major events without having to be tested first.

The minister will visit Ida-Viru County this week and go to Narva, Jõhvi and Kohtla-Järve. During the visits, he will meet with the heads of health authorities, local governments and private health care companies who are vaccinating in the area to discuss how to quickly increase vaccine coverage in these cities. Some special projects are possible, look at what works and what doesn't.

"It is important to be active on the ground - hospitals, family doctors, local governments, also through social workers or the public relations department, to turn to people, support them with transport if necessary, and contribute in other ways," Kiik lists.

He pointed out that in Ida-Viru County, more elderly people have been vaccinated than other age groups.

Currently, 34.4 percent of the adult population in Ida-Viru County has been vaccinated, and 42.8 percent of those over 70 years of age.

"People want personal counseling, explaining which vaccine is right for them. TV advertising is not the most effective measure in attracting an elderly person to vaccinate," Kiik said

Only in Valga, Võru and Harju counties is the vaccination of adults still under 50 percent, but 64-69 percent of the elderly have been vaccinated in these counties.

In other counties, coverage is already higher. Hiiumaa is the first county where 70 percent of the entire adult population is vaccinated.

Kiik is still optimistic that Estonia's goal will be achieved by September.

"Politico has set September 22 as the official start of the autumn. I am relatively optimistic that by then we will have 70 percent coverage."

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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