The rector of the University of Tartu has said vaccination campaigns should be replaced by personal counseling to help increase the coronavirus vaccination rate.
Approximately 120,000 older people have not been vaccinated against covid-19 and this puts hospitals' scheduled treatments at risk this winter.
University of Tartu Rector Professor Toomas Asser said this calls for a new strategy to help unvaccinated people make a decision about vaccination.
In total, 56 percent of the Estonian population has been vaccinated at least once but research suggests approximately 12 percent of people do not plan to get vaccinated. Up to 20 percent of people may have turned down vaccinations already.
Asser said many of these people need personal counseling to make up their mind about vaccination.
To aid this, the Estonian Medical Students' Association has launched a project entitled "Sügise plaan" ("Autumn plan") which will train medical students to assist family doctors.
Students will contact unvaccinated people on the family doctor's list to discuss vaccination with them and help them reach an independent and informed decision on vaccination.
Asser said medical students also helped during the spring wave which saw scheduled treatments suspended for thousands of patients.
"We must prevent the same situation from happening again in the coming winter, so every vaccinated person counts," he said.
Andreas Tulver, a fourth-year medical student and leader of the project at the University of Tartu, said: "The purpose of calling unvaccinated people is certainly not to change their existing perceptions, but to reduce confusion in people and help them make up their mind."
Ruth Kalda, professor of Family Medicine at the University of Tartu and member of the board of the Estonian Society of Family Doctors, said many family doctors need help.
"Calling patients and inviting them to get vaccinated is very time-consuming. Those who have been promptly willing to get vaccinated have already done that by now. Others need multiple phone calls, counseling, being listened to. Neither family doctors nor nurses have enough time for this significant amount of extra work," said Kalda.
Editor: Helen Wright