The Ministry of Defense says it will be tasking Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) medics with setting up temporary coronavirus vaccination stations, particularly in areas of the country, such as in southeastern and eastern Estonia, where vaccination coverage has so far lagged behind the rest of the country. The ministry made its decision following an appeal to do so from health minister Tanel Kiik (Center).
Deputy director of strategic communications at the Ministry of Defense, Roland Murof, said Wednesday that: "We can confirm that we are prepared to send the defense forces' medics to assist in expediting vaccinations, and that we have received the corresponding request for professional assistance."
Tanel Kiik said that the epidemiological situation of COVID-19 has been rapidly deteriorating; week 29 of this year saw a 72-percent growth in new coronavirus cases, to nearly 650, while forecasts say weekly numbers could exceed the 2,000-mark by mid-month.
Vaccinations represent a preventive measure and aim to head off potential overload of the medical system, Kiik said, adding that in some areas of the country family doctors are already worn out by the pandemic.
"For this reason, expediting the population's vaccination coverage as much as possible is crucial," he said, calling for EDF medics to serve areas with low vaccination levels, primarily Ida-Viru, Lääne-Viru, Võru, Lääne and Valga counties, in addition to the most populous county, Harju.
This would entail temporary vaccination stations to provide both doses of coronavirus vaccines, staffed by three healthcare professionals and their two assistants from August through the end of October, he said.
However, head of the government's coronavirus vaccination working group Marek Seer, while confirming a request for aid had been sent to the EDF, no official response had been received yet and to the exact logistics have yet to be hammered out.
Over 70 EDF medics are qualified to administer such vaccinations, BNS reports.
The voluntary Defense League (Kaitseliit) may also provide assistance at the vaccination centers in support roles, such as ushering and registering members of the public coming for vaccination.
Defense League volunteers have already provided vaccination assistance in the Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu districts, BNS reports, while early on in the pandemic in spring 2020, the league's personnel were also used at testing facilities and in other roles, for example on Saaremaa, whose rate at the time was particularly high.
The EDF set up a field hospital in the grounds of Kuressaare hospital on Saaremaa in spring 2020, in anticipation of the facility's existing coronavirus wards filling beyond capacity, but in the event the EDF temporary coronavirus ward was not needed.
Editor: Andrew Whyte