There is no quick fix to the apparent stalling of Estonia's vaccination program, neither in the form of stick, or of carrot, a former Health Board (Terviseamet) departmental director says. Even offering inducements to getting vaccinated requires clarification of the legal and ethical implications first, the expert added, while suggesting as one solution a more personalized and focused approach to vaccinating at-risk groups.
If and then the state has done everything in its power to encourage vaccination, it has to be acknowledged that an individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own health, Martin Kadai, who was heading up the Health Board's emergency medicine department when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in March 2020, told ETV morning show "Terevisioon" Friday morning.
That interest in getting vaccinated would peter out over time was known from the beginning, Kadai said, while blanket orders to get vaccinated are unsustainable.
Instead, vaccinating at-risk groups, such as the elderly, should be the focus, and should be active, and personalized, he said.
"Family doctors are not able to do this in addition to normal work. It requires special action by health professionals," he said, noting that the relatively low level of vaccination of over 80s in Estonia is inexplicable.
Nonetheless, coercion is not an option, he continued.
He said: "Intimidation does not work. It has a rather negative effect on society. People who have not gotten vaccinated will not then go and get vaccinated as a result of intimidation."
Using "carrot" methods instead, such as a gift voucher, should be instated uniformly and fairly, including in respect of those who have already been vaccinated, he added.
Kadai was making his remarks after the Center Party, in office with Reform, issued a six-point plan for encouraging vaccination, one which included financial bonuses to family doctors achieving high levels (at least 80 percent coverage) among over-60s on their patient list, as well as to care-home staff, when similar levels were attained among the body of staff at the institution.
As to stricter restrictions such as those in place in Latvia, Kadai issued caution here too. "They have a little effect, but in the long run, the loss of societal worth is a greater loss. You can't be sure today that pressure will lead to a solution."
Vaccination of the elderly is particularly low in Ida-Viru County and well below the 50-percent mark for over-80s there.
At the same time, calls have already begun for the elderly nationwide to get booster vaccines, since they were among the first demographic to start getting inoculated when vaccine supplies began arriving in significant quantities early on this year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte