Lawyers deem committee to investigate vaccine spoilage unnecessary

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Paul Keres. Source: Screenshot

Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik requesting that the state secretary form a committee for investigating the spoilage of vaccines at the Health Board's cold storage unit is deemed unnecessary by the country's top lawyers, Postimees reports (Link in Estonian).

"The committee of investigation – this mixed committee that is being formed – is completely inappropriate," Paul Keres, attorney at law at law firm Levin, said.

Keres opined that public oversight is sufficient and exhaustively regulated. When asked if the investigation committee was formed as a diversion, Keres said that this was absolutely the case.

"How is this investigative committee supposed to work? The people currently being investigated will be the ones to carry out the investigation. How is this an independent committee?" Keres said.

The lawyer said that investigators must have real independence and ability to demand and get answers as well as draw conclusions from said answers even if the state finds them disagreeable.

Lextal attorney Oliver Nääs said government institutions may want to form a committee for the purpose of internal controls and they have the right to do so.

"However, this committee mustn't replace institutions created earlier that should also investigate such suspicions, if necessary," Nääs said.

Both Nääs and Keres noted that in the case of a suspected offense, turning to law enforcement bodies is always an option. The separate investigative committee, for instance, is superfluous due to the State Agency of Medicines being legally obligated to check entities operating in the area of pharmaceuticals.

Additionally, the Health Board should be able to independently investigate its activities through internal controls. The minister of health and labor is legally obligated to supervise the Health Board and its director general. Oversight of activities of the Ministry of Social Affairs can be conducted by the entire government.

"Instead of using all these options for supervision, the ball is sent onto the other side of the court," Keres noted.

A rise in temperature occurred at the Health Board's cold storage unit over the Midsummer holidays, as a results of which close to three million euros' worth of vaccines and pharmaceuticals became unusable.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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