Lasnamäe district councilor Vladimir Svet (Center) has criticized the government's communication and organization of the vaccine roll-out. He believes it is unlikely people who are hesitant will be persuaded by campaigns.
Lasnamäe's coronavirus vaccination coverage rate is low, only 28 percent compared to an average of 51 percent across Estonia.
Speaking on ETV's morning show "Vikerhommik" on Monday and commenting on the low vaccination rate, Svet said Lasnamäe, which is Tallinn's most populated district and had a high number of Russian speakers, has had more people suffering and recovering from coronavirus, so if both numbers are tallied, the question of who is closer to herd immunity arises.
Last week, a pilot project was held in Lasnamäe Centrum shopping center which allowed people to get vaccinated without an appointment. Svet said the district government had not been included in the organization. "This shows one of the reasons why the [vaccination] pace is not what we would like it to be. Involving and informing partners could be better," Svet said.
The district governor would prefer there to be a situation where the local government would be approached with a message, for example, that in three weeks there will be an opportunity to vaccinate, for example, 5,000 people. So far, however, they have had to react very quickly to events as they are planned with only a few days notice.
He said more attention needs to be paid to people who do not follow the media, watch evening news programs or are active on social media.
"We are primarily interested in people who do not consume media. It takes significantly longer to reach them, and the channels that exist will not reach them in three days. The first step in increasing the pace of vaccination could be better planning and longer deadlines if we want to reach the elderly if we want to reach people who live completely out of the information field. And I'm not just talking about Russians here, sorry, we also have quite a few Estonian people who don't consume Postimees and Delfi on a daily basis. We need more time," Svet said.
The councilor said most attention must be paid to the unvaccinated elderly who are most at risk and the time when trying to use well-known celebrities or people in the media to encourage vaccination is over. There needs to be an emphasis on people, such as relatives, who have already been vaccinated to pass on their experiences.
Additionally, it is still important to work with people's fears. Svet has been actively communicating with people about vaccination. "Of course, no one has told me directly that I am afraid, but when I ask "have you have been vaccinated?", many people say that "I am still looking into it". People also say that they haven't really thought about it yet. I call this fear and we have to work with that fear. Most people say they're hesitant."
When asked about how possible it is to change someone's mind, Svet said: "As funny as it is, we have to start from scratch. We have to start by explaining to people what this vaccine is, that it doesn't really save you from the coronavirus, but it reduces the chances of you being severely ill and infecting others."
Svet said that during the first wave of the vaccination campaign, it was understandable that the messages were simplified because they needed to be passed on quickly. However, in order to convince people in doubt, we should start with the facts, which must be repeated on all channels.
"We have to start with the existing channels, we have to repeat all the facts first of all in the 'classic' Russian-language media, such as the Russian-language Delfi, Postimees and the ERR Russian news portal," he said.
In addition, information should be spread in newspapers. Svet said that one might think that the Estonian state should make a separate newspaper, and not only for the elderly in Lasnamäe, but aimed at informing people about the coronavirus in general.
Secondly, vaccination should be brought as close to the people as possible. "The practice of shopping centers should be multiplied by 10," Svet said. He said that the focus should not be on those shopping centers where half of East-Harju County is located, but on smaller local markets where locals go.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright