Health minister: Booster doses to be made available more broadly

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center).
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said in the Riigikogu on Thursday that booster shots are now available in the country for everyone whose last shot was administered at least six months ago. The minister noted that the COVID-19 situation has deteriorated twice as fast than predicted.

While the state's position thus far had been that booster shots are given to front-line workers and people aged at least 65, the minister now confirmed that everyone who wants a booster shot and whose last injection was administered at least six months ago can get their third shot regardless of the type of COVID-19 vaccine they received previously.

"We have enough vaccines and capability [to administer them], and from what we can see, there is interest in getting vaccinated," Kiik said, adding that the elderly are a priority when it comes to the administration of booster doses.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) had said a day earlier that the state should immediately start offering booster shots to everyone whose last injection was received at least six months ago.

"We have an important proposal to the state with regard to booster shots. A decision has currently been made that booster shots are to be administered to teachers and people in at-risk groups, whereas other people need to wait for theirs for the time being. Meanwhile, active people who got their vaccine as early as in spring are already seeing their protection wear off, particularly those people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine," Kõlvart said.

"My colleagues in the city government and I do not understand why we keep stepping on the same rake. Why are we once more administering booster shots in a particular order when we have the means to vaccinate everyone who wants to get vaccinated?" Kõlvart said.

"Let us give the people who want to get vaccinated the option to receive their third dose," Kõlvart said, adding that many city officials would like to receive a booster shot; however, they have not been classified as front-line workers by the state.

Health minister: Situation has deteriorated twice as fast than forecast

Health minister Tanel Kiik added that the coronavirus situation has deteriorated twice as fast as previously forecast.

Taking the floor in the parliament on Thursday, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) from accused the government of failing to predict the severity of the crisis in its statement made on September 30. Kiik explained that the situation has indeed deteriorated rapidly.

"The situation with hospital treatment has deteriorated two times faster than predicted," Kiik said, adding that while the number of hospitalized patients was estimated to grow to 200-300 by mid-October, the real number was 500.

Kiik said that it is evident that the only way to resolve the coronavirus crisis is through extensive vaccination. "The work of hospitals is complicated by the need to simultaneously deal with outbreaks outside as well as inside the hospital, which demonstrates how infectious the new strains of the virus are," he said.

Kiik noted that following the rules established by the state is crucial and everyone who has fallen ill must stay at home. "This goes for everyone - both vaccinated and unvaccinated people," he said.

The health minister said that all collective activities that can be cancelled should be cancelled. "Naturally, I'm not saying that a family should not come together to have dinner, but when the question emerges whether or not to invite five more families, then this is something people should refrain from doing," he said.

The minister also underscored the need to commend health care workers. "Attacks against medical staff are unacceptable. We cannot have that in our state and what is worse, even some politicians have stooped so low as to do it," he said.

Former minister: Is the government going for herd immunity?

Reinsalu criticized the government and said it seems like the plan is to achieve herd immunity at the cost of human lives. "1,000-2,500 people leaving this world - that is a reality," he said.

"This doctrine of implementing herd immunity is unethical and I emphasize - no one has said it publicly - no one has set it as a goal, but the current indecisiveness forces me to question if this is the road we have chosen," Reinsalu said.

Tanel Kiik responded and said there are two ways to battle the coronavirus: either vaccinate or recover. "Our goal is to protect people through vaccinations," the health minister said.

Reinsalu also proposed the creation of a new Riigikogu committee to handle coronavirus issues. "It is absurd that we do not have a parliamentary problem committee for this question, the most important question for the state, which would operate similarly to the European Union Affairs Committee does now. This committee would look at government proposals, listen to implementers and would work as a weekly systemic watchdog," the Isamaa MP said.

Urmas Reinsalu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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