Estonia's child vaccination rate fell 10 percent over last decade

Children. The photo is illustrative.
Children. The photo is illustrative. Source: Tanel Valdna/ERR

Vaccination rates among children in Estonia have fallen 10 percent over the last decade and the country has fallen below the 95 percent threshold advocated by the World Health Organization.

Every year fewer children are vaccinated in Estonia and this increases the likelihood of an outbreak of serious contagious illnesses, such as measels, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Sunday.

"In 2020, 83 percent of those [children] were vaccinated, in 2010, it was 92-93 percent. So, in 10 years, vaccination has decreased by 10 percent," Merle Areda, a pediatrician at West Tallinn Central Hospital told AK.

Areda said parents often think their newborns have weak immune systems which should not be overburdened by vaccinations - but this is not true.

She also highlighted vitamin K shots which are used to prevent blood clotting problems during the first six months of a baby's life. Areda said new parents often say they do not want to hurt their child by vaccinating them.

Tallinn family doctor Katrin Martinson said this is a problem of a welfare society. Parents believe their children will not catch a serious illness.

"There is a real risk of outbreaks. But we don't think so. As a family doctor, it gives me the impression that we are driving at 100 km/h on a motorway that is well paved, we have a good car and the child is not wearing a seat belt because it is assumed nothing will go wrong," Martinson said.

Irina Filippova, chief specialist at the Health Board's Department of Infectious Diseases, highlighted polio - which has not been seen in Estonia since 1961 due to high vaccination rates.

She said if vaccination rates drop it will only be a matter of time before it reappears. Filippova said this was the case in Ukraine where 20 cases were diagnosed this year.

The lowest child vaccination rates in Estonia are in Valga, Võru and Viljandi counties. Each county has a vaccination rate of between 84-86 percent.

Data from the OECD's "Health at a Glance Report: 2020" shows Estonia's child immunization rate against measles was 87 percent in 2018. This was one of the lowest rates in Europe. The EU average was 94 percent.

For hepatitis B the rate was higher at 93 percent.

Last year, ERR News reported there were 10,000 children in Estonia unvaccinated against measles. In 2019, there were 27 cases of measles in Estonia.

Estonia also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe against coronavirus.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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