The Ministry of Social Affairs has turned to the Association of Dispensing Chemist Pharmacies for a list of pharmacies where conditions exist for vaccination.
While proposals to immunize people in pharmacies have so far been rebutted, the ministry now wants to know how many pharmacies could be suitable as vaccination locations.
The association has been proposing immunization in pharmacies since last fall. The latest such proposal was made a week ago and merited a positive response for the first time. The association was asked for a list of pharmacies that have the premises and preparedness for vaccination, as well as how many people could be vaccinated in a week.
The association has put together a preliminary list of around 50 pharmacies. Pharmacies will make their premises available free of charge, head of the association Ly Rootslane told ERR.
"We have the premises, while the law does not allow pharmacists to administer vaccines, which is why partners need to be found. That is the next thing we will do once the state confirms it wants to use pharmacies in the immunization effort," Rootslane said.
"The authorities have told us that they will analyze which pharmacies to use and talk to the Health Insurance Fund in terms of the contractual relationship, funding and vaccine deliveries," she explained.
It also remains unclear whether people will need to register for pharmacy vaccination or whether vaccines will be offered based on the walk-in principle. "We can do it both ways. It will depend on vaccines and general capacity."
The nearly 50 pharmacies listed are located all over Estonia, while most are in areas where vaccine coverage remains modest. "Quite a few are in Tallinn's Lasnamäe borough where we have problems with immunization coverage, also in Jõhvi and Narva," Rootslane said.
She said that one advantage of using pharmacies is that most stay open after the end of the workday.
Rootslane added that pharmacy vaccination could be launched in late July.
"Organizing it will take a bit of time. We hope we can launch preparations soon. We're hoping for the end of July, while it will depend on cooperation and the state quickly figuring out what it wants," she said.
Vaccination effort chief: Those not vaccinated need to be given a push
Head of the national vaccination working group Marek Seer told ERR that special solutions, such as pharmacy vaccination, have been in the plans for some time.
"The summer major vaccination plan has always been to start in vaccination centers and county hospitals and move closer to people using smaller special solutions in the second half of summer, whether we are talking about vaccination stations in malls, pharmacy vaccination, vaccination buses or other solutions," he said.
Seer said that the time for custom solutions has come as the number of people motivated to seek out vaccines has started to wane.
"That is why we need to gradually start nudging people who have not gotten vaccinated yet. We have now started work on these special solutions, including pharmacies. We are testing whether people are interested in such solutions in Lasnamäe and Narva shopping malls," Seer said.
The vaccination effort coordinator also said that how, when and on what scale pharmacy vaccination will take place is still being discussed with the association. "We will make it known once we're ready to launch pharmacy vaccinations," he said.
Will pharmacists be allowed to administer vaccines?
Rootslane noted that the immunization effort could be helped by allowing pharmacists to administer vaccine shots.
"We want pharmacists involved in vaccination, which is already the case in Lithuania and many other European countries. This would render the contribution of pharmacies much more effective as we have a limited number of nurses and would waste time on logistics. The pharmacist administering the vaccine would make things easier," Rootslane said.
Pharmacists currently lack the necessary specialist medical care service permit in Estonia, while the pharmacy services permit does not give them the right to dispense vaccines.
Editor: Marcus Turovski