Doctors, politicians: 'Vaccination is only way out of coronavirus crisis'

A health care worker treating a coronavirus patient at Tallinn's North Estonia Medical Center.
A health care worker treating a coronavirus patient at Tallinn's North Estonia Medical Center. Source: PERH

While doctors and politicians say the only way out of the coronavirus crisis is by vaccination, the rate has almost come to a standstill over recent weeks. Hospitals have started restricting scheduled treatment.

On Monday afternoon, the reception at Tallinn's North Estonian Medica Center (PERH) seemed calm, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported. But the fight for lives takes place a few floors above.

"The workload of hospitals is increasing every day. Ten days ago we received 20+ patients a day, now, for the last seven days, we are accepting 30 patients every day," said Peep Talving, a member of the government's scientific advisory council and chief physician at PERH.

The problem is worse in south Estonia. PERH has one intensive care unit for coronavirus patients, while two of four have been set aside for covid-19 at Tartu University Hospital. On Monday, the hospital decided to limit scheduled treatment.

"This means that there are fewer places for patients who need intensive care after surgery. We have a third less, but it is already 50 percent lower at the Tartu University Hospital," said Talving.

Every week doctors and politicians repeat the only way to solve the crisis is through vaccination, but fewer people are receiving their first doses. So far, only 54 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

Riigikogu opposition member Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) told AK: "Last week, the pace of vaccination in Estonia was the slowest since February, the vaccination process has practically stopped."

Ossinovski said we cannot just wait and hope for the problem to resolve itself.

"As [virologist] Professor Merits said, it will solve itself with 2,500 deaths," he said. "We need to reorganize the way we carry out the vaccination process."

At the moment, healthcare company Confido's Tallinn vaccination center can perform 1,000 jabs a day but only 100 people are vaccinated each day on average.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said there is no need for big changes in the vaccination process. He said an emphasis needs to be placed on those who are not vaccinated.

"We can best approach it through positive messages, through the work of family doctors, through calls, by sending messages," Kiik said.

Ossinovski believes new restrictions will soon be needed to combat the spread of the virus and an honest discussion needs to be had with society. He said parties are hesitant to introduce new unpopular measures before the local election.

Kiik said he did not know if measures would be popular or unpopular.

"I am taking steps and actions that promote vaccination. /.../ I do not support restrictions, I support today's rules, I support measures to increase vaccination coverage," he told AK.

Estonia currently has the second highest coronavirus infection rate in Europe.

There are no further restrictions planned. Masks are not mandatory but venues must check coronavirus vaccination or recovery certificates.

There were approximately 250 coronavirus patients in hospital on Monday. The Health Board has said it will be "very bad" if this rises to 650 in the coming months.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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