Government coronavirus advisor: Young people need to get vaccinated

Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council.
Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While no new restrictions are currently needed in the fight against COVID-19, those recently imposed for events without vaccine checks were appropriate, Professor Irja Lutsar, the virologist head of the government's coronavirus advisory group – the scientific council – says. One of the main issues is getting young people vaccinated, she added.

"Vaccinate-vaccinate-vaccinate," was Lutsar's main recommendation to young people, at a time when fewer than 10 percent of those younger people who contract coronavirus have been vaccinated, Lutsar told ERR's radio news Tuesday.

"It is probably not difficult for a young person to get to a vaccination center. I would strongly encourage young people to get vaccinated," Lutsar added.

"Young" in this sense can stretch from 20 years of age to 40, Lutsar noted, with the deciding factor being more the social life than anything else – with plenty of contacts, the age-group can be more susceptible than older people who might tend to stay in more and have a narrower circle of contacts.

As to the populace as a whole and those who contract COVID-19, Lutsar said that: "The vast majority of them have not received any vaccination; some have received one shot, but one dose is not enough."

"If we look at Estonian data, a vaccinated person is four- to five-times less likely to get infected than a non-vaccinated individual," Lutsar went on.

Lutsar said that the scientific council met again Monday to look at data on infection rates among vaccinated versus non-vaccinated people, finding that a large number of those who have contracted the virus have not been inoculated.

Again, with relation to younger people, this was particularly the case, she said.

 "The Viljandi folk festival was a good example, also parties in Pärnu," ​​she said.

Pärnu is Estonia's summer capital; Viljandi Folk Festival was held July 22-25.

The council also identified seasonal variations in relation to regions, Lutsar said – as well as Pärnu and Pärnu County, Tartu, a university town, stood out by the rates during summer time, while Ida-Viru and Harju counties saw spikes during winter time.

Nonetheless, even now, rates are rising in Harju County, or at least in Tallinn, while the bulk of those hospitalized due to the virus are in Ida-Viru County, particularly in Narva, on the border with the Russian Federation.

All of this meant that the recent government restrictions on events which do not conduct vaccination checks were most likely not heavy handed, she said.

"The fact that the government imposed restrictions on events is probably not wrong. Going to an event with a vaccine passport can help reduce the spread of the disease at events," Lutsar said.

Internationally, Lutsar cited a pending report from the U.S. which says that vaccination protects people from the most serious cases of coronavirus, but vaccinated people can still transmit the virus even if they display no symptoms, though full data on this was not clear, she said.

Moreover, asymptomatic people were most dangerous, in fact, she said, since they would not self-quarantine and take other precautions in the way a person with symptoms might do.

Further evidence of the correlation between restricitons and rates comes from Ireland, she noted, where th recent reopening of pubs and restaurants was followed by a rise in cases, even as other strict regulations remain in place in that country.

"The virus has its course, and I don't know of any country where the virus has been thoroughly defeated," she added – noting that even in Vietnam, long been touted as a global success story during the pandemic, rates had sharply started to rise.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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