Organizers of raffles, including Tallinn city authorities and a major hospital in the capital, aimed at promoting coronavirus vaccination coverage among minors should not see misdemeanor proceedings opened against them, despite such campaigns being against the law, the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) says.
The agency says a distinction should be drawn between promoting medicines in general, versus the coronavirus vaccine, whose uptake, the agency says, relates to a broader range of factors than is the case with most pharmaceutical products.
A response from the State Agency of Medicines to the complainant, Varro Vooglaid, who heads up a family values NGO, read that: "The State Agency of Medicines has contacted all the organizers of vaccination promotion campaigns that we know of and has explained to the campaign organizers the requirements and prohibitions concerning the publication of such information.
"We have also clarified that any new campaigns must be coordinated with the State Agency of Medicines and the Health Board and that any raffles or lotteries related to vaccination should be avoided," the reply, signed by inspector Keili Kondike of the agency's oversight department, continued, according to BNS, which had obtained the reply.
The letter added that while the agency says it understands the obligation to initiate misdemeanor proceedings against organizers of campaigns, even if they have ended, the agency: "Has made every effort to put an end to the infringements and to prevent further infringements, and given the resource shortage stemming from the pandemic, the State Agency of Medicines considers it more appropriate to direct its activities to making sure that further campaigns are compliant with valid requirements, with a view to ensuring the objectivity and balance of the information provided to the public, in order to enable each person to take a carefully considered decision on vaccination, taking into account both the personal health situation and the ongoing health crisis as a whole."
The agency found that types of campaigns in question must not be aimed directly or primarily at minors.
Vooglaid, whose organization, the Foundation for the Protection of the Family and Tradition (SAPTK), filed the complaint, told BNS that: "What criteria have been used to consider that attracting many children and young people to vaccinate by raffling off mobile phones, tablets, burgers and the like is a minor misdemeanor is not clear from the response from the State Agency of Medicines."
Vooglaid added that despite the unlawfulness of the promotions, the State Agency of Medicines considers that it would not be expedient to initiate misdemeanor proceedings against organizers, which, Vooglaid said, included the City of Tallinn and the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH).
The unlawfulness includes contravention of section 84, Subsection 8 of the Medicines Act, which prohibits persons who do not have the right to prescribe medicines from organizing prize draws and lotteries related to medicines, Vooglaid continued.
The medicines agency, BNS reports, drew a distinction between such promotions as relating to medicines, and those relating to coronavirus vaccinations, however, as the public make health choices for reasons other than medical ones in this case.
Vooglaid said that the episode also ran counter to the Code of Misdemeanor Procedure, which requries mandatory misdemeanor proceedings by the relevant authority – in this case the State Agency of Medicines - when the elements of a misdemeanor become clear, unless the authority is convinced that the infringement is a inor one, or if there are other mitigating factors.
Violating the Medicinal Products Act in the advertising of medicinal products can come with a €32,000-fine, BNS reports.
The State Agency of Medicines had referred to the Code of Misdemeanor Procedure, Vooglaid added, and a section which requires a decision on following through with misdemeanor proceedings within 15 days, and notification to complainants of this decision within he same time-frame; Vooglaid said that SAPTK had received this notification over 30 days after it was submitted.
Editor: Andrew Whyte