The number of third doses of coronavirus vaccine administered in Estonia so far is 12,000, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said at a government press conference on Thursday.
Kiik said that 12,000 booster shots have been administered in Estonia. Each vaccine dose helps improve the situation, he added.
The minister also pointed out that the total number of people requiring hospital treatment grew more last week than in the preceding five weeks combined.
As of Thursday morning, 441 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment in hospital in Estonia, according to the Health Board. Of these patients, 313 require hospitalization due to severe COVID-19, with 209 patients or 66 percent unvaccinated and 104 patients or 33 percent fully vaccinated. A total of 76 new COVID-19 cases were opened during the past day.
Booster dose administration based on trust
Third doses of the coronavirus vaccine are now available to health care workers, teachers, social workers and people aged at least 65 if more than six months has passed since the completion of their vaccination process.
However, the people administering third doses are not able to check if the person that has come to receive their third shot belongs to any of the said groups, daily Postimees (link in Estonian) reported on Thursday.
Tartu University Hospital will suspend scheduled treatments from Monday due to the hospital being full of COVID-19 patients and a need for additional bed places for new patients. All hospitals in the neighboring areas are likewise full.
The state has imposed limitations on the administration of booster shots, which in addition to health care workers are only available to teachers, social workers and people aged at least 65 six months after their last injection.
"We cannot verify it, of course, but we trust people," Tartu University Hospital vaccination coordinator Tiina Teder said. "In addition, everyone will sign a consent document declaring that they have the right to receive their third dose."
Booster shots are also being administered based on trust in 24 pharmacies where vaccination against COVID-19 has been made available. All time slots offered have been booked.
"The state did not compile lists this time, because the objective is for as many people to get their protection as possible," Ly Rootslane, head of the Estonian Association of Pharmacist-owned Pharmacies, said. "[At pharmacies] people also provide confirmation that they belong to the relevant group. Nurses only check if six months has passed since their last dose."
"The European Medicines Agency has permitted weighing booster shots for all adults after six months, thus a person receiving theirs earlier than instructed by the state is not currently Estonia's biggest concern," Teder said. Third shots are not currently administered to people who have recovered from COVID-19, however.
In order to boost the critically slow pace of vaccination, cooperation is needed, according to Teder. "Today and tomorrow, we'll put our heads together with Tartu city leaders to figure out how we could get some support for raising awareness. We also want to meet with leaders of [Tartu's] neighboring municipalities and with family doctors to have them help out as well," she said.
Family doctors are also planning to launch their vaccination campaign on Monday. "For two weeks, we'll set our planned work aside, only emergency reception will remain," Argo Latt, a family doctor from the central Estonian town of Rapla, said. Rapla County places second in terms of vaccination coverage among the elderly after Hiiumaa island.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste