Virologist: Booster dose rollout has been too slow

AstraZeneca vaccine.
AstraZeneca vaccine. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Virologist Andres Merits told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Sunday that Estonia has moved too slow in administering third coronavirus vaccine doses.

One of the main factors in the rate of vaccinated people among daily coronavirus cases increasing could stem from the colder weather, when people are spending more time indoors. It can also be seen that while unvaccinated people tend to get infected everywhere, vaccinated people tend to get infected after someone unvaccinated, such as a child, brings the infection home, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

"Infections at home do not have to take place. We have not emphasized lately that it there is a PCR-positive person at home, think of how to isolate them. Let's not take this as an inevitability, let's try and do something," said government scientific council member and virologist Irja Lutsar.

Since vaccines are not as effective in avoiding lighter cases of the coronavirus, they are still very helpful in avoiding serious illness. 90 percent of the intensive care beds in Estonia are filled by unvaccinated people and 70 percent of the patients in infection wards are unvaccinated.

The remaining 30 percent of patients can largely be distributed into two groups. "One is people of different ages with co-morbidities. Their vaccinations do not result in antibody synthesis and the development of immunity. And we can see that people who got the vaccine more than six months ago, especially those over the age of 65 - their immunity is dropping in time," said University of Tartu Hospital board member Joel Starkopf.

There are some 130,000 people in Estonia who received their last vaccination dose at least six months ago. University of Tartu virology professor and government scientific council member Andres Merits said the state has not administered booster doses fast enough.

"My personal opinion is that they could have been administered faster because the booster dose rollout in Estonia started on October 5 and more than 100,000 could have been administered. As far as I know, that number is near 40,000 instead," the virologist said.

There is no booster dose invitation system in place currently and everyone must remember their own vaccination process and when to go for a third dose.

"Go get vaccinated, do not wait to be invited. I know this since I was vaccinated and I can look at the date of my vaccination from my own vaccination certificate and calculate if six months are up and go there myself. No one is sent away, as far as I know," Lutsar said.

In addition to getting vaccinated and the person's age, the specific vaccine also plays a part in the person being hospitalized. Studies show that people vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine are most likely to end up in the hospital.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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