Culture minister: People cannot be forced to vaccinate
Minister of Culture Anneli Ott (Center) said vaccination against coronavirus is one way to keep society open but people cannot be forced, in an interview with ERR on Sunday. This weekend, newspaper Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) reported the minister is refusing to be vaccinated and Ott has said she will not publically announce her vaccination status.
Ott was interviewed by phone on ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera". In response to a question about EPL's call for her to resign, she said everyone in Estonia has the right to an opinion but she will not resign from her position.
Asked if she had been vaccinated, Ott said the interviewer had the right to ask the question as she is a member of the government, but added: "I will stick to the fact that even in this case, it is up to me to decide whether I will share it [vaccination status] with the public or whether I will discuss my health issues in public. I've decided not to, but you can still ask, yes, of course."
Asked if she recommended people get vaccinated, she said "Vaccination is certainly one way we can keep our society open today. This is a very important measure because we have to admit that today we do not yet have alternative solutions."
However, the minister added that people must make their own decision about what is best for them and should not be forced by "coercion or propaganda". Ott said non-vaccinated people should not be discriminated against.
She said she supports the government's policy encouraging people to get vaccinated against coronavirus but reiterated it should be an individual's own choice. Ott said differences of opinion are discussed in the government but said consensual decisions are still reached.
It was previously reported by ERR and ERR News that Ott had refused the AstraZeneca vaccination in April. Other members of the coalition and Riigikogu were vaccinated in March.
Jaak Aab, head of the government delegation of the Center Party, said: "No government decision has been delayed and no minister has said that vaccination is not necessary."
He said vaccination is the most effective measure against COVID-19, but added that it is a personal decision.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) were approached for comment on Sunday but declined to answer.
On Monday morning, former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Reform) said he did not agree with Ott's unclear statements and conduct and would not have allowed a minister acting similarly to continue in his government.
Speaking to morning radio show "Vikerhommik", he said high profile public sector employees, such as members of the government, should be setting an example to the general population.
"This is no example if the minister of culture gives the impression that she is against vaccination. The minister of culture should first and foremost be standing up for cultural people to do their jobs, for people to be part of our rich culture," Ansip said.
Ansip was critical of the government's vaccination policy and vaccination workgroup manager Marek Seer.
"These organizers have taken an observer position, it is said that the ball is in the hands of the people and they are distancing themselves from the process. It is not in their hands, the ball is still in the hands of the organizers and if they can't do it, hand it over to someone else," said Ansip.
He suggested more vaccination opportunities need to be created, such as additional vaccination buses, and more private sector involvement is needed. Ansip said vaccination in pharmacies, which started last week, should have been rolled out a long time ago.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.
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Editor: Helen Wright