Those unable to get vaccinated must either stay home or be tested regularly

A nurse administering a PCR coronavirus test.
A nurse administering a PCR coronavirus test. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

People whose health does not allow them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus only get to be a part of society through expensive tests because according to the Ministry of Social Affairs, they cannot be allowed to cafes without testing. Although according to the ministry, they will be offered free testing in the near future, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice finds that the state treats such people unequally.

The website states that by vaccinating, we protect the weakest who cannot be vaccinated due to their health condition. "They can be our parents, children, friends, acquaintances or just passers-by on the street," is stated on a page created by the Health Board. The state gives similar messages elsewhere on the Internet, as has been stated by vaccination chief Marek Seer.

However, when setting restrictions, politicians and officials have forgotten these people. Only those who are able to show a QR code, either via a device or in a printout, can for the most part access cafes, cinemas and hobby education. However, continuous testing would cost hundreds of euros a month.

For this reason, the Chancellor of Justice's office turned to the Ministry of Social Affairs and highlighted several people who are looking for a solution to their concerns. The doctor does not allow them to get vaccinated, but they still want to be part of society.

Marje Oona, a member of the expert committee of family doctors and immunoprophylaxis, there shouldn't many people with that issue.

"I think there are less than a hundred of these people," Oona said. "And if there is a really known allergy to one component of a vaccine, you can consider that we can choose between three vaccines. And another may be suitable," she added.

Oona explained that allergies can mainly prevent vaccination. "Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, for example, contain nucleic acid encoding an antigen that is surrounded by a drop of fat," she said, adding that something in this drop of fat could cause an allergic reaction. She added that it is very rare.

Oona noted that before banning vaccination, the family doctor should also consult with specialists and investigate whether another vaccine is more suitable for the person.

"And there is a lot of talk about false contraindications, which are certainly not contraindications for COVID-19 vaccines," Oona said.

For example, people think that a coronavirus vaccine may not be suitable for people with immunodeficiency. Oona said they could actually need three doses of the vaccine instead.

"Certain types of vaccines are not suitable for people with immunodeficiency. These are called live attenuated vaccines, such as the varicella vaccine or the yellow fever vaccine for travelers," Oona explained. "But COVID-19 vaccines are not live attenuated vaccines and are actually recommended for immunocompromised people," she said.

Family doctors will also start testing

However, there are people for whom the coronavirus vaccine is not suitable, but they also want to go to a cafe, choir or disco. There is no word about these people in the government orders.

Heli Paluste, the head of the health care network of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that the same rules apply to all those who cannot be vaccinated as to all unvaccinated people. "The solution for such people could still be to take the required test," Paluste said.

The PCR test performed at the healthcare provider is valid for 72 hours. This means that if a person wants to be actively a part of society, he or she has to get tested at least twice a week. One test costs more than €50.

"Testing opportunities have been created in every county, but there is no such possibility in every local government," Paluste admitted.

"If a family doctor can perform a quick test and send a corresponding notification to the health information system, then testing should become a little easier for a person in the near future," Paluste said.

The result of the rapid test is valid for 42 hours, which means that the person who is not allowed to be vaccinated must go for the test at least three times a week.

"In the case of people for whom vaccination is contraindicated, testing would be free of charge," Paluste added.

According to the Chancellor of Justice's office, free testing would be a great option, but it does not really solve people's concerns. "A person has to endure constant testing," was stated in the appeal sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs said.

The Office of the Chancellor of Justice noted that people who are not allowed to get vaccinated by a doctor could be equated with vaccinated people and still be allowed to go to cafes and events.

Danger to society causes the certificate from a family doctor not to be enough

However, the head of the health care network emphasized that the purpose of the restrictions is not to bully people but to keep society open.

"A person who cannot really be vaccinated because of some persistent contraindication is in fact in quite a high risk of infection himself when he goes to a place where there are a lot of people," Paluste said.

Paluste added that a certified solution may offer a solution to those who cannot be vaccinated or tested. Others still have to go testing and there are no plans to make an exception for them. At the same time, Paluste stressed that there may be around twenty people in Estonia who cannot be vaccinated permanently.

"But if we still think of a situation where such a person even without testing, goes to a big event in an indoor space, where quite a lot of people can get the infection, then it's quite dangerous," Paluste said.

Some people not considered because few in number

A more systematic question runs through the whole story. In July, when the government introduced new restrictions, ministers stressed that there was really nothing new in them.

"Both the organizers of the events and the participants in the events received a clear signal already in the spring: those who have had the corresponding procedure can participate in larger events," Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab said (Center) on July 22.

At the same press conference, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) reminded that such restrictions came into force on June 14. Also, the fact that there are people among us who cannot vaccinate themselves did not come as a surprise to politicians and officials.

However, it took the whole summer for the country to start thinking about how to save such people.

"I think it has to do with the fact that there are still very few people with absolute and persistent contraindications," Paluste said. She added that at the beginning of the summer, no one could have imagined how strict the restrictions would become in a few months.

"The situation is just the way it is now, and these restrictions will change pretty quickly, depending on how our infection rates change and how hospitals fill up," Paluste said.

"The main goal is that we should not start limiting our planned treatment," she said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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