'Rahva teenrid': State lacks plan for vaccine booster shots

Martin Šmutov, Mirko Ojakivi and Heidit Kaio.
Martin Šmutov, Mirko Ojakivi and Heidit Kaio. Source: ERR

Guests of the Vikerraadio "Rahva teenrid" talk show were critical of the decision to close Tallinn schools and found that the state lacks a plan for administering vaccine booster shots.

Õhtuleht editor-in-chief Martin Šmutov said that of Tallinn's 20 least vaccinated schools, 15 are Russian schools, two private schools and just three Estonian general education schools.

"I would like to see Mayor Kõlvart or Deputy Mayor Belobrovtsev say that we will only be closing the least vaccinated schools and leaving most Estonian schools open," Šmutov pointed out.

Editor-in-chief of magazine "Pere ja kodu" Heidit Kaio pointed out that infection rates are highest in schools, while hospitals are mostly taking in elderly people. Closing schools has complemented the virus crisis with a mental health crisis that affects students and their parents. In addition, most children have developed gaps in their education. While places of business make use of video conferencing and home office work, schools are reluctant when it comes to launching hybrid study that would allow children at home to partake in classes over video links.

Šmutov said that earlier waves of the virus have seen schools and kindergartens closed outright.

"They made do, but at what cost?" he asked.

He added that there is currently no overview of how many people have strong immunological protection or have gone fewer than six months from receiving their second or third shot. There is also no picture of how many people have gone six months since their second jab and would need the third one. The state also seems to lack a plan for inviting people in for third shots.

"SMS messages telling people that their booster shot appointment is, for example, in two weeks could be used," Šmutov said, adding that the message should repeat until the appointment arrives. The process should be carefully thought out and inclusive, instead of just counting on the person to remain vigilant.

"But how are we communicating with people who should go in for their booster shot? Once again, the state seems to believe there is plenty of time. I see no roadmap for reaching people today," Šmutov said, suggesting it should be a public plan by the government or the Health Board.

Host Mirko Ojakivi said that if booster shots against Covid become an annual or biannual occurrence, it will be that much more difficult to motivate people to go in for vaccination.

The participants also criticized the education ministry's plan to launch testing of students in schools in November that they find is turning teachers into healthcare workers. They also wondered why it was necessary to procure tests outright to the tune of claims that the ministry only had two weeks in a situation where experts have been saying for six months that schools should start rapid testing.

"Claims that the ministry only had a fortnight in which to prepare are rubbish. They had six months to make preparations," Šmutov said.

"Were we really convinced in the summer that there would not be a third wave?" Kaio wondered.

However, she did not believe time spent on testing would be a great loss.

"Losing 15-20 minutes of study time is a very small price to pay to avoid losing years in education," she said, pointing out that the UK tested students for Covid three times a week already last year.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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