Head of the Health Board's (Terviseamet) emergency unit Ragnar Vaiknemets told Vikerradio's morning program 'Vikerhommik' on Monday morning that closing society down for months at a time will happen again and again for as long as the vaccination rate doesn't increase. At the same time, he stressed that the coronavirus vaccine-hesitant people shouldn't be condemned.
Vaiknemets said that the predictions with regard to the future of medical aid is poor. He said that there are around 380,000 unvaccinated people in Estonia.
Considering there are around 600 hospital beds and considering the speed of the infection, then around 30,000 from the 380,000 unvaccinated people may need hospital treatment.
"This means around a year-and-a-half of elevated medical workload," he said.
"This idea that I will recover from the virus and it's my decision is not valid because it will have a long-term effect on the health care system, the health of our people and society depends on that."
Vaiknemets said that at least for the next year, society will continue working on a four to five months basis after which, extensive measures should be established.
Vaccine-hesitant people shouldn't be opposed
"Every person needs to look over the information on which he or she is basing his knowledge on," Vaiknemets finds.
"It is completely normal to hesitate and need more information and explanations. I think that this is the key for moving forward with these people."
Vaiknemets said that every person doubting the vaccine could contact his or her family doctor who, starting from this week, are focused on vaccination topics. He also advised approaching the Health Board directly.
He also gave advice on how vaccinated people should communicate with people who haven't been vaccinated.
"If you're vaccinated and in favor of it, then bring the information to him. Don't confront them, try to understand them, what these fears and thoughts are. And give adequate information so he could think a little," he said.
Vaiknemets recommended looking into multiple sources if the person doesn't trust the key spokespeople, for example, the University of Tartu Hospital's short videos.
"It can't be said that that this is a philosophy of a small community of experts to inform mainstream media information," Vaiknemets said. "This is the community of scientists around the world, which stresses that the vaccines are safe. The number of side effect cases and their severity is significantly smaller than suffering from the virus."
Vaccinated people show trust in scientists
"55 percent is a good result for such a short amount of time, for new vaccines, it's showing a lot of trust in experts and scientists and I'm grateful that people have made their decision," Vaiknemets went on.
At the same time, he said that refusing or waiting to get vaccinated is a decision and choice, which sends signals to family and loved ones, the community and to society in general.
"We know that an unvaccinated person gets infected easier than a vaccinated person," Vaiknemets said. "Being on the younger side and recovering from the virus, a false reality may appear that I can suffer from it and this is somehow okay."
Accessibility of ambulance, family doctors and hospital treatment reduced from this week
Vaiknemets stressed that the medical personnel is not choosing sides and the system is standing for people's health even if they don't want to do it themselves.
He said that the hospital system's issue is not in the number of hospital beds but in people who are helping in hospitals. Similar to the other countries, Estonia is lacking medical personnel and people need to be redirected to the coronavirus departments, which would make it difficult to help people with smaller health problems.
The Health Board gave the ambulance the right to reduce the team driving in the ambulance car. Vaiknemets said that usually there are three people in the car.
"Now, a situation may occur that there are only two people and one is not a nurse, but a Defense Forces paramedic," he said. This, however, means that the ambulance can't offer the same quality level as usual.
In addition, accessibility to ambulances will decrease, which means that when before, it took around an hour to reach calls of lower priority, then now it will take around three hours or it's possible that the person will be told that the ambulance won't reach him at all.
Family doctors have been granted the right to limit their scheduled activities and ensure unavoidable and emergency help as a priority. Family doctors will focus on counseling unvaccinated people for the next two weeks.
Hospitals will be granted the right to limit offering health services to patients whose state doesn't require unavoidable aid.
"These decisions are not made lightly, and they can vary by areas," Vaiknemets added.
"People can't get help in time, they suffer more deriving from the fact that the hospital treatment is postponed."
He brought an example of hip surgeries, which could be postponed, but where the patient's movements are limited, they can't exercise and are experiencing pain. Another example is that of migraines, where a person is suffering from a headache, but it's difficult to diagnose the issues without running tests. Vaiknemets added that regular medications might not be enough and interference of experts is needed.
Editor: Roberta Vaino