Tartu the frontrunner for youth vaccinations in Estonia

Tartu vaccination center.
Tartu vaccination center. Source: Tartu University Hospital.

Although the coronavirus vaccine coverage across Estonia is growing fastest among young people, only a fourth of people aged 12-15 are vaccinated. Tartu is an outlier, however, with every other young person vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The rate of vaccinated people in the age group 12-15 has grown 25 percent over the last three weeks. The vaccine coverage in that age group in Tartu is 44 percent, 20 percent up from Estonia's average.

Tartu deputy mayor Mihkel Lees pointed out the city's efforts to raise awareness in schools and organizing nearby vaccination options for people. Lees also praised the Tartu University Hospital, but believes it is also possible for smaller municipalities without hospitals to make the vaccination process easier.

"Each local municipality must think outside the box here and consider who is their healthcare provider they can work with. They must undoubtedly also think about asking for the capability be brought or ordered in if it is not available otherwise," Lees added.

A lack of vaccination options has become an issue for Hiiu County. While the county is a frontrunner for elderly vaccination coverage, the coverage among the 12-15 age group stands at 11 percent.

Hiiu County deputy municipality mayor Hergo Tasuja said the county did not have enough options for vaccination when youth vaccinations were approved. "Unfortunately, there were no resources available from the mainland, either. In that sense, there has been communication with different vaccination organizers to get a vaccine bus or vaccinators here to do a couple of days of work," Tasuja said.

The required assistance is set to arrive in August, however. Tasuja hopes that the small island county can achieve 70 percent overall vaccine coverage within a month.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said youth vaccinations have been slower in all of western Estonia as the region has mostly used the Moderna vaccine, which was only given approval for youth vaccinations in the end of July.

"I do not consider it realistic that we could have vaccinated 70-80 percent of the underage population. We are dealing with the summer period, it is a topic that many families want to discuss further and unfortunately, we only had the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to use in that age group. Now, with the Moderna vaccine, it gives us an opportunity to increase our pace," Kiik said.

The minister added that since all children will unfortunately not be vaccinated for the start of the schoolyear, other measures must be implemented to ensure that schools are safe for COVID-19 spread.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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