After receiving criticism from the state auditor general and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on Tuesday, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) admitted there are certainly sides to vaccination organization that could be amended. He told ERR that an updated vaccination plan will be published this week.
The National Audit Office criticized the current organization of vaccinations in a letter sent to the government on Tuesday, stating that Estonia lacks an updated vaccination plan. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas made a statement of her own, saying she will cut her vacation short and considers it unacceptable that there are thousands of vaccine doses in storage, but will not reach those who want them. How do you respond to this criticism?
There are always sides to the vaccination organization that could be improved and we have continuously extended vaccination options, even offering vaccinations without pre-registration, there are different vaccination buses, some pharmacies where you can get vaccinated. We can actually see that Estonia's vaccination tempo has gone up over the past few weeks.
I have seen the audit office's letter with observations. Some of them are appropriate and reasonable, I do not agree with some of the criticism. The overview the government has gotten on vaccination progress and our current indicators has been quite thorough and additional questions have always been welcome. The vaccination coverage is actually available for everyone in Estonia to see and it is possible to follow on the local municipality and city district level, in age groups, etc. So I would say Estonia has been role model when it comes to information and publishing it.
There are problems. We are working on them. And of course, we are calling all Estonian residents aged 12 and up to get inoculated as soon as they can so our vaccine coverage would improve and we would be better protected.
The National Audit Office is pointing to vaktsineeri.ee, where an updated vaccination plan was set to be released on July 1, but it is still not available.
True, the vaccination plan is being updated. We are currently working on the previous plan, which has also set goals for the fall. 70 percent of the adult population is a goal set by the EU by the start of the astronomical fall - September 22.
The part of the plan concerning young people, minors and re-vaccination scenarios is being updated. We have been in discussions with representatives of the Family Physicians Association and members of the vaccination strategy workgroup, where there have been different additions and changes made to the plan. It seemed reasonable to publish the plan as a whole and not update it repeatedly throughout July.
So the new plan will now specify goals, milestones and the final goal?
Multiple milestones are worded more clearly in the perspective of us wanting to reach 80 percent coverage in the 60+ group in addition to the general adult vaccination coverage. At the same time, there will be a goal for the 12-17 age group, since we now have Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines and the freshly European Medicines Agency-approved Moderna vaccines, which can be used to protect them from COVID-19, as well.
So the updated plan will be published this week and we have taken observations from the government and other workgroup members into account.
The prime minister noted in her statement that there are still many vaccine doses in storage that are not reaching those who want to be vaccinated. Can this be fixed?
We have two parallel problems. On the one hand, the question really is about how many healthcare workers can conduct vaccinations in July, in the middle of summer. On the other hand, there is a question of how much demand there is.
Meaning, we can see that there are regions where there is a lack of healthcare workers, there have not been enough vaccinators on location in the middle of the vacation period. But there are also regions with a lot of open time slots, where workers have had to do so-called shortened days, because there has not been enough interest from people. We have seen it in multiple places.
The desire to get vaccinated has gone up again, demand is rising, which was seen over the previous week, when 22,000 people got their first vaccine dose - 6,000 more than the week prior. It is a good sign and we must now provide more time slots for vaccinations and we will do so in cooperation with hospitals, family physicians and private sector healthcare comapnies.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste