Anneli Ott: We need to keep society united and maximally open
Vaccinating absolutely everyone in society cannot be the only way to fight the coronavirus. We must also use all other measures at our disposal. It would be sensible to put together a system of testing in addition to vaccination, Minister of Culture Anneli Ott writes.
The past week has seen efforts in the press to turn me into the country's top anti-vaccination activist, which I definitely am not. Vaccination is an important measure for keeping the virus in check and I support it. As explained by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab, all government decisions concerning vaccination have been consensual.
I believe that while relevant debate is necessary, it has come to focus too much on my person. Health decisions are very personal and mine have been made after consulting with several doctors. The law allows everyone to make their own health decisions based on what they believe to be right.
Simple system of testing needed next to vaccination
Vaccinating the whole of society cannot be the only way to combat the coronavirus. We must also make use of all other possibilities.
We need to keep society united and as open as possible, find sensible options. Firstly, how to handle vaccination with as much information as possible made available, and secondly, how to protect people who cannot be immunized due to health reasons or choose not to vaccinate, as health decision can be made after consulting with family and specialist doctors and need to be based on one's medical condition.
Now, when the third wave has arrived, we need to find alternative ways of reaching all social groups and ensure that culture remains open, the economy functional, as well as thinking of the general well-being of the state. Why couldn't people who can prove they are healthy go to the theater? We need to develop a simple system that would be available for everyone.
I have given the example of France where Covid antigen tests are offered at pharmacies. We could look for similar opportunities in Estonia. Estonia has a strong pharmacy network, and one solution would be to authorize them to administer rapid tests and input relevant data.
Event organizers have said that the current system of testing is too expensive, difficult to use and in need of streamlining. The problems contributing to this bottleneck need to be addressed post haste.
Involving pharmacies would help keep society open and allow people in rural areas to avoid traveling to major centers simply to prove they are healthy.
Vaccination debate here to stay
Scientists, doctors and politicians have to make great efforts to keep societies open and return to normal life. It has become very likely by today that the virus will be with us for some time, which is why the vaccination debate will continue and spark new and innovative solutions. I am glad the debate has been launched, while it should not be centered around my person in the future. Furthermore, I am not against vaccines.
In summary, I believe it would be sensible to develop a system of testing to complement vaccinations that would allow people to enjoy culture and avoid another lockdown.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski